Thursday, 24 May 2018

Green & Cream Test Shirt

18th century shirts are my very favorite kind of shirts, and I have not worn any other sort of shirt for several years. And I need to make more of them, because I intend to keep wearing them indefinitely!

But I want to try making some modern-ish shirts too, mainly because I have too much cotton print in my stash. (Most of the cotton prints are ones I know I didn't buy, and have no specific memory of obtaining. I think they breed.)
I don't expect to wear the modern-ish shirts very often, but I think they'll be useful to have on hand, especially for things that might damage or stain my nice white linen.

I say modern-ish because I just can't do a 100% modern button up shirt. They have so many qualities I hate. They're too fitted! Tapered sleeves and curved side seams and shaped sleeve heads, blagh!
They also sometimes have pockets on the front, which I think is weird for a shirt. And vertical buttonholes are insufferable little bastards that I want nothing to do with.

So I made myself a shirt pattern that I hoped would avoid all these problems, and after one mockup I sewed it up so I could properly work out the fit and construction. This shirt isn't terrible but I still have a few tweaks to make to the pattern. I will post a picture of the pattern the next time I sew it up.

I vaguely based the pattern on a regular modern shirt pattern that I copied for a friend, but I changed every piece so much that the shapes look more like the 1870's shirt from The Cut of Mens clothes than the original shirt.
The cream coloured fabric is a mediocre linen I got from my local fabric store some time ago, and the dark green is cotton. I added the green so it would go with the green and gold buttons I used, though I think it may have been a few too many green pieces.
My buttons, which I bought because they were shiny and green and 50% off.
Everything is machine sewn except the inside edges of the cuffs and collar.

I have several complaints about the pattern. The most noticeable one is that the placket is too narrow. I forgot to consider the fact that I prefer horizontal buttonholes, and so the ends of them are butted right up against the folded edge of the placket. It's not very visible from a distance, but looks terrible upon close inspection.
 There are no underarm gussets, but I still put the little triangular ones on the hem slit. They're too important to leave off!
Besides widening the placket, I also need to lengthen the sleeves a bit, and add more width to the back piece. When I was tracing out the pattern I foolishly forgot to make the back piece wider than the yoke so I could do some pleats or gathers or something, and as a result it feels very strained when I stretch my arms forward.  
The upper collar also need to be a slightly different shape, because it doesn't sit as nicely as it should, and I'm not happy with the way it looks when buttoned up.
I have (very grudgingly) decided to add a small placket on the sleeve next time I make this kind of shirt instead of just making the gap in the bottom of the sleeve seam. I put shiny contrasting buttons on the cuffs and they're underneath my wrists where nobody can see them!

The cuffs also feel uncomfortable. I think this is because of the interfacing. My regular shirt cuffs are just as tight as these ones, but they have no interfacing and they are comfortable. I'm not sure if I want to leave off the interfacing or loosen up the shirt cuffs a bit. 
I have at least 4 or 5 pieces of cotton that are big enough for shirts and that I have no other particular use for, but I'm not sure when exactly I'll sew the next one up.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Extremely Stripey Breeches

Several weeks ago I made a pair of striped breeches with the same cotton I used for my striped waistcoat. I have many complaints about them.
They're lined in plain white cotton, because anything dark might show through the white stripes. The kneebands are lined in cotton twill, rather than being folded in half lengthwise, and I realize now that I should have been doing this on all my earlier kneebands.
The gap at the back has a small triangle of fine black cotton, and another one of those shoelaces.
The waistband is lined in the same off-white twill as the kneebands. The waistband buttons are some sort of white material with metal shanks, while the ones on the knee are 3/8" bone molds covered in fine black cotton.
The buttonholes are by machine, as is most of the sewing, because the materials are neither good quality nor well-suited to breeches. They took a grand total of 20 hours and 39 minutes.

I wanted to try doing ties on the knee instead of a buckle, but sadly the best thing I could find in my stash for this was terrible cheap satin ribbon, which very much needs to be replaced because it's slippery as hell and WILL NOT tie tightly enough. Next time I'm at the fabric store I'll look for grosgrain or cord or something.

The good news is that the crappy ties can be easily replaced! I attached them by poking two holes with an awl and threading the ribbon through, then secured them with some whipstitching on the backside between the two holes.
I can see by where the buttons ended up that I still need to taper my pattern more.
Another big complaint is that the stripes don't go straight down, they bend. The outseam needs to be taken in a bit by the knee, and the inseam needs taking in a bit lower. I really should do this so I can make the appropriate adjustments to my pattern, but I'm not sure when I will as it's sure to be a big pain in the butt.
They look wonky from the back too.
At least they look okay from the side! Paired with the striped waistcoat they're a bit much, but I like the way they look with my grey wool waistcoat.

I'll hopefully do the alterations on them sometime soonish...

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Linen indoor cap #2, and a bit more about my job

 Dear me, I am behind on posting again. I finished this cap at the end of March, and it's taken me 3 weeks to post it! I have another pair of breeches to post too.

This linen indoor cap is very similar to the other one I made, but with the addition of a ruffle.
Instead of hemming the bottom edge I attached another strip of fabric to it with a flat felled seam. I was hoping to get the look of the one in this 1792 William Cowper portrait, but my ruffle sits pretty flat against my head. I think I'd need a stiffer linen for that.
Although I cut the cap to the same width as my other one, it somehow turned out a bit too loose. I added a drawstring to the channel made by the flat felled seam to tighten it up just a smidge. This makes it a bit less comfortable than my other cap, but not too bad.
This same detail appears in the extant cap belonging to William Cowper.
While I am late posting this cap here, I did submit it to the Historical Sew Monthly on time!
The challenge: #3, Comfort at home
What the item is: A man's indoor cap
Material: Linen
Pattern: None
Year: Second half of 18th century
Notions: Silk thread, small piece of cotton cord, polyester satin ribbon
How historically accurate is it? Maybe 80 or 90%? I had very little reference material, but it's so simple I doubt it can be very far off. It's all hand sewn. The ribbon is definitely wrong, but I'll replace it when I get some better stuff.
Hours to complete: 5
First worn: March 31st, 2018
Total cost: No idea, I forget where this particular piece of linen came from. Very few dollars.

Since I have so few photos, and so little to say about the cap, I thought I'd use the rest of this post to talk a bit about my job.

It's at a local tailor's shop and I have worked there for 5 weeks so far. We make a lot of military messkits and police tunics. My tasks consist mostly of cutting linings (and interfacing and cuffs and facings and epaulettes), sticking on interfacing, sewing darts and back seams, and basting things for first fittings.
Here are some photos:
The table where I cut linings.

The shelf where the military buttons and whatnot are kept.
I've been getting along quite well with the cutter, who works across the table from me and cuts out most everything besides linings.
Here's a lovely fish we made to decorate this bulletin board with:
He's the scrap from in between 2 jacket side pieces.
And our other fish, which I brought in to spruce up this dusty vase that was on the shelf for no apparent reason:
She's in two halves, with magnets!
Here is the magical machine that sticks fusible interfacing on:
You press it on lightly with the iron, then feed it through the hot rollers!
Never have I seen interfacing so thoroughly and evenly stuck!
And here's the expectant mother pigeon who lives above the front door:
That's all for now, I hope to post my breeches soon!

Monday, 2 April 2018

Grey wool waistcoat

3 months ago I made a pair of breeches with some pieces of wool from a pair of old pants, and a bit of similar wool from a skirt. I covered some buttons in the breeches fabric, then decided to use contrasting ones. I said I'd use the rejected buttons on a waistcoat made from the leftover skirt fabric, and here it is!
It's the same pattern as my striped waistcoat, but with lapels and a slightly different collar.
I finished it 2 weeks ago, but I also started a full time job 2 weeks ago, so have been very busy and haven't had time to write this post.
My new job is at a tailor's shop, and I've been cutting a lot of linings and sticking on a lot of fusible interfacing. I feel very fortunate to have a job that involves sewing!
My boss told me very firmly that I cannot hand sew without a thimble, so I did more hand sewing than necessary in order to practice.
This waistcoat is about half machine sewn and half hand sewn, and it took a total of 23 hours.
It's lined with the same blue cotton as the breeches, and interfaced with some very sad and limp hair canvas I got at fabricville years ago.

The wool is pieced on both shoulders, and on one side just under the armhole.

Like the striped waistcoat, it has an annoying wrinkle at the shoulder and I don't know what's causing it. I really should have investigated this on the mockup before I made the waistcoat. I hope I can fix it without removing the collar.

I'm also a bit annoyed by how much my weight is fluctuating. When I made this pattern I had to curve the front edges outward a bit so they'd fit smoothly, but now it's considerably looser there and I'll have to straighten the front edges a bit on my next waistcoat.
Here's a picture of the waistcoat being worn with the breeches, but the snow is so bright they both look black.

This photo shows the two different shades of wool much better.
I like the fact that the unpicked wool bits were given to me by my grandmother, and the blue cotton lining came from the stash of my other grandmother.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Early 18th century shirt

As I mentioned in my year in review post, I really want a 1730's outfit. Since February's HSM challenge was Under, I started with the shirt. I want to challenge myself to be more historically accurate than usual with this outfit, and the shirt is not 100% but I think it's pretty darn good.
I tried taking backlit photos of it in the storage room, but they didn't turn out anywhere as nice as I'd hoped.
I found the collection of shirt pictures on this page to be quite useful references. The buttons are different from the ones I've done on my later shirts, and I wanted to get them as correct as possible. There aren't many extant shirts from the early 18th century, but we're given a pretty good view of the buttons on this c. 1700-20 one. Judging by the thread covering on these and the profile of the buttons on the shirts shown in the linked page, my best guess for what these are is Dorset Knobs.
Linen shirt, c. 1700-1720,  V&A
 (Side note, LOOK at how fine the fabric of that shirt is! If only I could get linen that finely and tightly woven! I have to make my buttonhole stitches 3 times longer than those ones to keep it from unraveling the edges, and I simply cannot manage gathers that tiny.)

I found this diagram on pinterest that shows a technique which looks like the one used on the buttons on the extant shirt.

The antique Dorset knob buttons on this website are listed as being made from sheep's horn, fabric, and thread.

I made mine using the 3/8" bone molds from Burnley and Trowbridge. I covered them in fabric the usual way, and used the pointy gathered side as the top of my button. I cut a long piece of heavy linen thread for gathering the cover, then pulled it through to the back and used it for the thread covering.
I made the blanket stitches around the bottom, and though I didn't count as I went, all four came out with exactly 12.
For the detached buttonhole stitches I switched to a small tapestry needle. I did them until the hole at the top of the button was down to a couple millimeters across, then stitched it shut and pulled the thread through to the back side again.
I m so very pleased with them! I did one sample one first, then cut the covering off it to re-use the mold, and did the 4 for my shirt.
They remind me of pineapple weed flowers, but Mama thinks they're more like sea urchins.
I sewed them onto my shirt using the same thread they're covered with.
The pattern is mostly the same as my other shirts, with some adjustments. I made the collar shorter, the cuffs much narrower, the main body pieces and underarm gussets a tad bigger, and the shoulder strip narrower.
All my shirts up until this one have had facings on the front, but for this one I cut and narrow hemmed the slit, and added a heart shaped reinforcement. Since it's a tiny detail that doesn't show up in any portraits or extant garment photos I've seen I have no idea when it first started being used, but I like it. The only extant examples I've seen have been on later shirts.
The reinforcement lit from behind. It doesn't show up well in normal lighting.
There are 6 lines of machine sewing in this shirt (the side seams, sleeve seams, and shoulder seams), and the rest is all done by hand. I folded the edges of the underarm gusset outwards instead of inwards when I finished them, and it made a much cleaner arrangement!
I also finished the armhole seam with folded tape from my smallest bias tape maker. I got the idea from this post, but had no woven tape that was the right size.
The underarm gusset and sleeve attachment.
(The tape is cut on the straight of grain.)
The buttonholes are done with DMC cotton pearl, which is the best behaved thread for the purpose out of all the other ones I've tried so far. (Sadly my local fabric store doesn't sell stuff specifically for hand worked buttonholes.)

Tiny little cuffs!
I hadn't noticed before that they had cuffs this narrow for most of the century.
Here is the finished shirt!

I made it without ruffles so that lace ruffles can easily be tacked on and removed. Sadly I don't have any good quality lace in my stash that's the right width for such a shirt, so I have temporarily added the most suitable bits I have until I can get better stuff.
The cuff and collar pieces don't mach, and both are some sort of synthetic, but it looks good from a bit of a distance. And I now have a good reference for just how long the lace pieces should be. (The cuff one is a great size but the bosom slit one could stand to have a few more inches gathered into it.)
Because this is my first ever shirt with lace ruffles, I put on some historical makeup and took a bunch of photos. (My attempt at hair was not very successful, but someday I will hopefully manage the soft, loosely arranged side curls of the 1730's.)

Smiling at a blank sheet of watercolour paper, as one does.

The front slit is held closed by one straight pin in the middle.
(The ink smudge on my finger is because I took some photos while holding a quill.)

The challenge: #2, Under.
What the item is: A man's shirt
Material: Plain white linen
Pattern: My usual shirt-piece dimensions, adjusted to suit an earlier style
Year: 1730's for my purposes, but it could go a bit later or earlier. Actually it'd probably work fine from the late 17th century to maybe the 1760's or 70's.
Notions: Four 3/8 inch bone button molds, cotton thread, silk thread, linen thread
How historically accurate is it? I'm not entirely sure, maybe 80%? It has only 6 lines of machine stitching, and is all hand finished. As far as I know the cut and the buttons are correct. I'm not so sure about the heart shaped slit reinforcement though. The materials are the best I could manage.
Hours to complete: 37 for the shirt itself, 40 after hemming & adding the lace.
First worn: Feb 27th/2018, for photos
Total cost: About $16 (Canadian) I think (The linen was on a buy 1m get 2m free sale!)

And here are a few pictures with the Beardsley waistcoat, because with all that embroidery it doesn't look quite right with solid fabric ruffles.
Which reminds me, I still need to unpick the button covers on that waistcoat and re-do them correctly...

I'm wearing these with the neck stock I made years ago, but I need to make a new one. The fabric isn't fine enough, and with the button closure in back it doesn't go tight enough (it's pinned in these photos). And I have a stock buckle now, so I can make an adjustable one!
Even though I'm dissatisfied with the the lace, I have no such complaints about the shirt itself! I made no foolish mistakes anywhere on this one!