Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finished Embroidery and The Burgundy Suit Continues

If you follow my Facebook or Tumblr, then you know that THE EMBROIDERY IS FINISHED!

I took all of Monday to work on the fill pattern on the left side, but now it's all wrapped up and I can pack up my embroidery threads. This project felt like it took forever, but when I looked back at my sewing diary, it actually only took me 16 days of total work. Granted, I was doing anywhere from 5 to 12 hours of work on the embroidery those days, so if I had just done an hour here or there it would have taken much longer. I did the bulk of the work back in February, when I was trying to cram in an entire embroidered suit just before the Francaise Dinner, set it aside to drown in schoolwork, and then picked it up again at the end of the semester.

In other 18thC suit news, I dug out the pieces for M's burgundy breeches and got to work on those yesterday. Things seemed to be going pretty smoothly until I actually flipped everything right side out and saw that things had gone horribly wrong in the drop front. Ugh. So, I had to cut out an entirely new front and started over, this time working much more carefully, and it all worked out.

I still have to finish the vents on the legs and add the waistband. I'm using the Simplicity Pirates pattern, and it's working pretty well. The only quibble I have is that there isn't a band at the hem of the pant legs, and I've never seen a pair of extant breeches without a band. That's not something that will be hard to add, though, so it's not a huge deal.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Embroidery Continues!

I can see the finish line! Last night I managed to complete the fill pattern on one half of the waistcoat, and if I can finish the other side tonight, and the remains of the second pocket flap, I'll be done!

Because the fill pattern needed to be in a grid and I didn't want to spend hours marking out and measuring a grid on the fabric, I picked up some gridded interfacing and used that to guide me.

The interfacing had a one inch grid on it, which was a little too dense for what I wanted to do, so I marked out an inch and a half grid using the lines on the interfacing to guide me. It was much closer to what I wanted, and using the interfacing made life a lot easier, especially since it was transparent enough that I could see the waistcoat through it and place it correctly without any hassle. The interfacing was a bit thick, so I had to poke holes into it with a pencil where I wanted my pattern to transfer to the fabric, but otherwise everything went swimmingly!

I started by sewing on each spangle.

I then added the stem and a couple of leaves, each in a different shade of green.

One hoop full of fill pattern took around 40 minutes to an hour to complete, so completing the entire thing took around 5 hours.

I'm so excited that I can move onto construction next week. M needs a new shirt, too, so I'll probably begin work on that at the same time. I have some really fabulous lightweight linen/cotton fabric that will make a great shirt, and I may sneak some lace onto the cuffs while he's not looking.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Back to Embroidery

I've had a bit of down time since the semester ended, so it seemed like the perfect time to really get back to the embroidery for M's 18thC court suit. I had been working hard to finish it for the Francaise Dinner, and then we didn't end up getting to go. Then I tried to finish for the DFWCG's own Georgian Dinner, and there was so little time to devote to it that I decided to make something else so I didn't rush it.

Well, now I have time! The past couple of nights I have devoted a good number of hours (around 12 hours a day, actually) to finishing up the embroidery so I can finally move on to construction. The first thing I needed to do was finish up the last of the embroidered border on the bottom edge of the waistcoat, which took about 6 hours.  Then I moved onto the buttons.

I had debated whether to make embroidered button covers or to find some jeweled buttons to use, but I finally settled on the embroidered ones. Because the buttons are so small (5/8") I couldn't do anything super elaborate, so I just did a little blue flower ringed with spangles.

With plenty of time to devote to the embroidery design, I decided to make it a bit more elaborate. I stitched an outline for the pocket flaps onto the body of the waistcoat that was accented with spangles, since I'd seen similar designs on extant waistcoats. Then I moved onto doing the pocket flaps themselves.

They are outlined with the same dark green that I stitched the waistcoat body with. I wish now that I had made the flaps in a different shape instead of the parallelogram that I've used for his other two waistcoats, just to change it up a bit, but I guess that gives me an excuse to make another waistcoat!

One pocket flap took about 12 hours to embroider and spangle completely.

The other pocket flap is nearly finished, but I ran out of green floss late last night and wasn't able to complete it before turning in. I should be able to finish it tonight, though! Then I'll just need to create the little filler pattern for the rest of the waistcoat. If you remember my last post, the body of the waistcoat looked like this -

Most extant waistcoats have a tiny, regular fill pattern to that big blank space, usually a single flower or something like that. I found a waistcoat from our decade (the 1760s) that had little flowers that used spangles as the bloom and had the stem and leaves embroidered in. I love any excuse to add more spangles, so I'm going to try that for this waistcoat. The original fill pattern from my inspiration waistcoat is probably a bit too much for M (TONS of spangles), and I don't fancy spending a bunch of time on filler, so I'm glad I came across the spangle flowers! You can see the original spangle flowers below, and clicking the pic will take you to its listing on the Met website so you can see the whole thing.

I'm hoping to finish up the embroidery by Monday and begin on construction soon afterward, so stay tuned!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Georgian Dinner

I had been trying to make this event happen for over a year. I had been to the Francaise Dinner in Georgetown last spring and the bug had bitten me. I wanted one of my own. Unfortunately, the universe being what it is, things didn't come together quite as planned. Finding a French restaurant in Dallas is difficult in the first place, and finding one that will actually contact you back is something else entirely. There were also insanely high room minimums to contend with, and eventually we settled on just making a reservation at a good restaurant and dealing with not having a private room.

The day of the event I was still sewing, so we were a little late out the door to get to the restaurant. My friend Jen had offered to let us change at her place, which was wonderful since the restaurant was a good hour and a half from home and driving in all those layers in a car without air conditioning was not a fun idea.

Traffic caused us to be even later, so we rushed to dress and make it to the restaurant, arriving fashionably last. Thankfully, the rest of the evening went smoothly! We had good conversation and good company, and it was a relaxing and fun event.

Dinner was held at an Italian restaurant in Dallas. It had some nice old world feel to it, and was decorated nicely, but, weirdly, they decided to play reggae music all night long. Otherwise, it was a very lovely evening. I'm glad that we finally had a chance to do a sort of fancy dinner, and I certainly hope that we get the chance to do more of them in the future!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The 24-hour Suit

Okay, it's not a complete suit, and I didn't sew for 24 hours (I took five hours to sleep), but I did manage to mostly make the majority of a new 18thC suit for my fella.

I had good intentions for the event - I was going to finish up the embroidered waistcoat and make a quick new coat and breeches to go with it. But as the event drew closer it became clear that I wasn't going to have enough time to properly finish the embroidery and hand-sew the waistcoat like I wanted.

It was time for Plan B. I went to the fabric store the day before the event and found a suitable fabric for the waistcoat - a cream drapery fabric with a diamond pattern and small burgundy flowers. Since the coat and breeches were going to be burgundy, as well, it seemed meant to be! It was $35/yard, so I picked up half a yard and used my biggest available coupon to drive it down to an $8 purchase. Huzzah!

I cut the two front panels of the waistcoat from the drapery fabric and used a gold taffeta for the back panels. Because of poor planning on my part, I ended up having to piece the shoulder of one of the panels. Doh! Thankfully, it doesn't show when he has his coat on. I also decided to try and fancy up the waistcoat a bit by making some fabric-covered buttons with the little burgundy flowers on them. I cut out the little pattern on the back of the box for the button kit and then traced around one of the buttons to give myself a little window so I could center the flower in the middle of the button. It worked pretty well, though my button assembling skills still leave something to be desired, and I ended up with a lot of off-center flowers. Thankfully, I only needed 8 buttons, so I had the luxury of picking out the best ones and leaving the rest as backup in case I need to replace any in the future.

The waistcoat went together really easily, but making the buttons and piecing the shoulder took more time than I had anticipated, and I need to get onto making the coat and breeches. The coat was the priority, so I did that first. I used the Butterick colonial pattern again, the same one I'd used for his wool coat last fall, except this time I didn't make any adjustments, I just used it as it was made. I ended up really like the result, and it's great for a straightforward 1780s or 1790s impression. The coat isn't lined, so there is some pretty obvious machine stitching on the hem and sleeves, but overall it looks really nice. The duchess satin I was using really liked cooperating, too, so everything went super smoothly.

Too smoothly. I was getting suspicious. Nothing had gone horribly wrong, nothing had needed a great amount of fixing. Something was bound to go sideways.

Turns out, it was my time management skills. I had left the sleeves to my own gown to the last minute, and it turned out they needed a ton of piecing and extra trim to make them wearable and presentable to the world, so it cut into my time to work on the suit significantly. I had to settle with just sewing on the waistcoat buttons and pinning the front closed since I didn't have time to make buttonholes, and I didn't have enough time to do anything more than glance at the breeches. I had cut them out, but now they sit in my project basket to be assembled another day. Oh, well. He ended up wearing a pair of khaki pants with his coat and waistcoat, and they looked somewhat like buckskin trousers with the rest of the ensemble, so it all worked out. Someday, though, I will have an entire suit for him. (And shoes so he's not wearing Sperrys with his court suit!)

Also, ignore the funky neckline in the photo to the right, it just isn't sitting right on the mannequin. I promise, it's not off kilter in real life.

I'm toying with the idea of making a new coat entirely and leaving this one as a backup, but there really isn't anything horribly wrong with it. It really just needs the cuffs redone and the hem attached by hand rather than by machine. I neglected to add the pocket flaps, so I'd like to add those, as well, and I would love the chance to go back and add some embroidery to the front edge of the coat, but with the simpler waistcoat, I actually like it plain. I do have a good bit of fabric left to make another coat, so perhaps that can be the embroidered one in the amorphous future. That way he can have the option to be fancy or simple depending on the event and his mood. It's good to have options, after all!