Saturday, October 31, 2009

Riding Habit

Happy Halloween everyone! I have to work tonight, so no fun for me, but I at least will be in costume. But, to celebrate I figured I should get the habit up. To preface, it was patterned at a Burnley & Trowbridge workshop. I have previously posted on the riding habit shirt as well. It's made from a pearl green worsted wool, trimmed with silk velvet, and lined with silk taffeta. Style-wise it's a late '70s or '80s. The peaked cuffs, short skirt (too short for pocket flaps even), lack of skirt on the waistcoat, and the narrow collar really date it. So does the hat, but that's a whole different beast (trust me, that was an unpleasant journey). The buttons are silver twist.

From inside to out the shift, stays, shirt, petticoat, and other basic items have been touched upon before. The first habit piece on top of this is the waistcoat. I used a cinnamon silk taffeta for the fronts, both inside and out. The back is a plain linen. Nothing much unusual in stitching here. Edges are done in the tailor style with a spaced back-stitch (rather than the under-hand commonly used in mantua-making). The fronts were made first and all of the seams fold into the back lining area. Note the back doesn't have vents like men's waistcoats. Even if you choose to put a skirt on your waistcoat, the back stays short.
The buttons are simply self-covered wood. The pattern of the waistcoat is the same as the coat, except for the bottom (since mine has no skirt), and adding a small amount to the coat seam allowances for ease. Note the dart just above the bust line, it should happen at the top of your stays.
The coat is lined in the same taffeta, except for the sleeves which are linen. That wears better than silk and won't be as fretful to replace when the elbows and armpits wear out. The skirts are inserted up into the body with the lining hiding the seam. Unlike many gowns, the armscyes are closed as well. The back seam is back-stitched, the side seams are done like a gowns with top stitching.
The center back skirt has a vent, while the sides have pleats. They sit under the front section, both front and back fold twice so that the edges do not lay on the same side. Buttons are placed on the top and 1" up from the hem.
The collar is also lined with the silk. There is no interfacing in the collar (same goes for men's wear) and none in the cuffs since they are stitched on. However, the front does have interfacing pieces to help support the buttons and buttonholes. The waistcoat has the same. I used Russia Sheeting in this case. I've also used a heavy linen before, but the correct thing would be a buckram (stiffened linen). I haven't taken the time to make any yet, but it's not difficult.
So there it is! I recently finished a men's suit, jumps, and another gown. Once I finally get images of the customers wearing them, I'll be sure to post those! The interfacing in a man's suit does well to inform how riding habits are done as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Riding Habit Soon!

This Saturday I'll be back in Indiana for Feast of the Hunter's Moon. If you're in the area make sure to visit and wave me down! I'm almost done with my riding habit for it. I still have to finish the hat (I blocked it today), stitch on the rest of the buttons, make a cravat, and figure out hair. I've given you all a sneak peek, the full inside out to come soon. I've also recently finished some men's small clothes and are ready to start a hunting coat and under-breeches. Add in some jumps and I should have some fun posts coming up soon!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Grand Opening

My Etsy shop opened today as well as my local tailoring business. Here's a peek at what went up today:

I've got some other fun things coming soon as well including some aprons, kerchiefs, hats, embroidery, leather gloves, and hand-painted fans:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Just a quick post for today. I can honestly promise that I will pick up postings soon; I'll be opening shop around September 1st and should have many more projects and much more time! In the mean time, here are a couple of images of the back of my blue linen gown and a couple of a pair of mitts I put together recently. In progress is a pair of leather gloves as well.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Quarter-back Gowns

Alright! Here it is, the instructional post on how to put together a quarter-back gown. I'll include a few asides on how to do the Robe a l'Anglaise, but I don't have any made to show images yet. You'll see two gowns in the images, both made slightly differently, but useful in showing that there's not a single right way to do this.

The first fitting is going to be for the front pieces, the back only if it's quartered, the sleeves, and knowing general petticoat/skirt length. I'll be posting a step-by-step fitting process somewhere in the future, so I'm not going to go into great detail on how to do that yet. Simplifying it, take the person and pin linen (or muslin) to their stays and start drawing lines where you want the gown to be!
After that fitting you'll be assembling the front pieces, sleeves, back pieces separately, and can start on finishing the edges of the skirt.
The front pieces: they should have longer shoulder straps than needed in the end for now (you'll fit that part in the third fitting). To assemble you'll use the under-hand stitch around the neck, front, and bottom to where your skirt will slip in (or all the bottom if you're laying the pleats on the lining like I did- more volume). Unlike modern techniques, you'll lay wrong to wrong side and pin baste some of the central area so they don't shift around. Baste the fashion fabrics seam allowance back first, then pin on the lining seam allowance.
The back pieces on a quartered-back are done just about the same. You can stitch the back seams up first with a back-stitch if you want or not. Otherwise, you'll assemble the four back sections individually just like the front, going around all four sides. *Note that you'll want to leave an extra 1/8" out of the folded edges for seam allowance later* So, make sure you know the back neck height during that first fitting. I also don't know a way to insert that skirt into a quartered back with this method, but the other styles make it much easier. If you want boning in the back of your gown, you'll either make casings on the lining before stitching down, or use the seam allowances for casings. You can see two bones CB in the striped gown. To assemble the back pieces, you'll lay right to right and back-stitch right next to the lining using that extra 1/8" we left out earlier. The side seams come after the second fitting, so don't worry about those yet.
*Side note: for other styles you'll do the pleating and apply that to a lining piece prior to second fitting, leaving the sides wide and not cutting the skirt loose yet or the neck line.

For the sleeves you'll back-stitch the seams, making linings separate from fashion fabric. The sleeve hem will be done with the same under-hand stitch. The armscye of both the bodice and the sleeve is left open and raw. I recently saw a woman's jacket where they used the bodice lining to hide the armscye seam, but it had very odd construction techniques (we're thinking a tailor trained person did it). The actual fitting of the sleeve in won't happen until fourth fitting. If you're worried about arm movement, keep the armscye high on the bottom of the bodice and leave extra on the scoop of the sleeve. You can always trim it down later.
The second fitting is where you'll find where to attach the front to the back. Pin the back to the stays, pin the fronts closed and smooth it around the body. Don't worry too much about evening the side seams until you get it off the person. Then you can measure out their placement and make sure it looks balanced. You'll topstitch the fashion front to the back (through both back layers) with a spaced back-stitch. The front lining will fold back over this seam to hide it and be whipped down. You can now finish the bottom edge and apply the skirt. To finish the skirt, just do a 1/4" roll on the front edges and whip down. The top edge should be folded down before pleating. *Make sure to leave extra length on the skirt to account for an optimal two inches folded down and the fact that it also overlaps the skirt by 1/2".* If you are putting in a pocket slit, follow petticoat instructions and insert it in the reverse portion of a pleat so it's well hidden.
*Side note: if you're doing an english back, you'll cut the skirt free (angle from side seam down to under the outer most pleat) before stitching the side seams. The lining should be left free at the bottom of the side seam to insert the pleated skirt into the bodice.
The third fitting is for placing the shoulder straps, which are attached just like the side seams.
The fourth fitting you can fit the sleeves. This is not only making sure they fit over the armscye and arm correctly, but balance correctly. So, make sure you mark where their seam(s) hit the bodice so the wearer won't have their arms sticking out forward or behind them! You can whip the raw edges in the armscye if you're afraid they'll fray or leave them as is. Same thing with the raw edge folded down on the skirt.
This finished front, while two pieces of fashion fabric, only has one piece of lining. The fashions were attached at the beginning and treated as one. It uses buttons to fasten, which is rare. Most gowns will use straight pins (great if you have a tendency to grow or shrink or lace your stays differently) or hook and thread eyes. Hemming should use as little fabric as possible. Either a 1/4" to 1/2" roll hem or face the hem with twill tape if the fabric is thicker.
Under the Red Coat- the jacket will come up in a later post on construction.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The British are Coming!

I'm still alive, I promise! Things have been constantly hectic for last few months, but I'm really hoping to do a real post next week. This weekend is Under the Red Coat at Colonial Williamsburg (British troops "invade" CW to re-enact the occupation of 1781). So, I've been frantically sewing for that and to keep up with the hot weather since I work outside in the evenings now. While I've been gone I've built a linen quarter-back gown, a silk ruffled fichu, a silk sash, a semi-fitted linen jacket, an apron, and trimmed a hat. I've still got a bit of hemming and one more hat to do before this weekend. I'm sure I'll get lots of pictures of it all this weekend. I'll try to do a few posts on construction soon after. If you're in town this weekend, I'll be the one in a light blue gown trying to pretend I don't know the loud revolutionist red-head (you know we love you Nicki). Oh, and I'm going to start posting pictures of the wedding construction on my other blog soon. I'll make sure to put up a notification on here when I do. First up will be trousers and draping my ceremony gown!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hello again!  I apologize for being out so long.  I've been training for an evening job as a tour leader and spending the last bit of time on wedding plans.  I'm going to try to get back to posting on here again, as well as starting to post the construction of the wedding on my other blog (screams silently about patterning a morning coat).  So, for now, here is an explanation of the construction techniques used in a riding habit shirt (also applicable to a shift or men's shirt):

The front is split all the way down and only fastens at the collar.

The back ends just above the waist and gathers into a tape which ties around the front.
Right side of collar.  The first step is to split open the neck "T" and insert the triangle gussets you see.  These can be whipped onto the shirt or back-stitched.  I noticed extants had a line of back-stitches just off of the edge on most of the shirt.  The gussets have a top and bottom piece, so the raw edges of the shirt are hidden.  On top of this is the shoulder reinforcement strip, back-stitched on.  Finish the front edge or slit with a small roll (and a bride if slit).

Left-side of collar.  At this point you gather the neckline up.  I attached it to the collar by whipping on each individual gather (inside and outside grab different parts, think corregated cardboard).  I did the back-stitch line about 1/4" above seam.  The collar is a folded piece with back-stitched, then flipped right side out, ends.  You can see the inside of the ruffle which is detachable.
Exterior view of sleeve and gusset.  The gathering is attached just like the collar.

Interior of gusset; left side is body, right is sleeve.  The side seam is felted (back stitched, one side graded, and folded over twice then stitched down).  It transitions into the gusset by use of a fabric strip reinforcement that goes all the way around the armscye and hides the unfolding of the felting.  It's whipped down.  The sleeve portion of the felted seam transitions differently.  Back-stitch the seams first.  Then the side that the seam folds too (up in this case) is actually clipped right at the gusset point.  The sleeve and gusset piece on the other side fold over the raw edges left.  So, one side felts to the sleeve piece and the other felts to the gusset.

You can see the stitching for the fabric strip on the inside.
Moving into the cuff is weird as well.  The interior folded piece just stays folded after the split, but the other side (bottom of pic) is technically rolled to the outside of the shirt.  The cuff is attached just like the collar.

I used thread dorset buttons (no metal ring) and my button holes were about 1/2".  The lace was gathered onto a bleached linen tape (just like the collar).  That way I can just whip the tape to the shirt and easily remove it if I need to wash the shirt.

I know there are a lot of areas of the shirt I didn't mention, but it's generally all rolled shirt-tail hems or felted seams.  I just wanted to talk about the problem areas I had to do some research into.  If you have any questions or want me to post about an area I forgot please ask!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wintertime Blues

Alright.  I made it through the workshop, have bound my stays, and am almost over a nasty cold.  So I can finally update!  Between starting up my wedding planning and beginning an evening job this week (I finally get to wear the costumes!), the rest of the year will be me posting instructions on things I've finished more than building new.  I've just got the riding habit in construction as of now.  For the wedding there will be a Morning suit, both a 1930s and 40s evening gown, a 40s hawaiian wiggle dress, and possibly some top hats.  All of that won't be posted until after it's debut of course.  Now, on to the stays;
Through my local source I managed to get a pile of white oak scraps to use as boning.  I broke up the strips to approximated lengths and whittled them down to the right width.  I managed to not take off any fingers, but it did take me over two weeks.  The bottom binding was done just in time for the workshop, so my habit is fit over them.  Mark used me as the guinea pig wearing my older stays so we got the fun of comparing "patterns" later.  I haven't officially measured, but they were almost the same except for an almost 2" difference circumference in bust and waist.  Don't ask me where all of it went!  I got the top binding done today and just have to line.  Excuse the cheesy pics as always:

I eventually cut the straps further toward the front than the basting line.  After a weekend of wear they were bruising me (despite wonderful forced posture).

I haven't finished the ends on top because I'm inserting double bones into the last channels and haven't cut them to size yet.

The binding technique applies to all but very thick leather.  You put right side to right side and stitch 1/4" or so in from the edges.  Fold it to the back and stitch through all layers.  Since I used some metal bones I couldn't sew through those.  Traditionally you would go through the bone ends if possible to keep them from shifting (pre-flossing technique).  I used a back stitch on the front side and a prick stitch from the back.
I'm using ribbon to tie the shoulder straps, but still haven't found a cord that I like.  For now I'm just using linen tape or twill tape.  Optimally I would find a silk woven cord, seven strand without a hollow core, but so far as I can find it doesn't really exist anymore.  So, I might settle for cotton.
When it comes to lining I'm going use a regular linen.  The tabs are done individually and the bodice is made from as few pieces as possible (usually 3 or 4).  It's all loose and meant to be easily replaced.  The seams are butted and whipped.  Lining edges lay over the binding edge be it ribbon, fabric, or leather.  While you fold back before you get to the back (or front) eyelet line, you do have to work the lining around the strap eyelets.  Do it the same way you do regular ones, just use fewer threads to hold it back.  I'll get pictures up as soon as I finish that part.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Quick Update

Sorry I seem to have disappeared!  Everything is half-way done it seems (and I'm trying to plan a wedding amidst it all).  I've managed to assemble my stays, and they fit beautifully, but I'm having difficulty finding decent ash splints.  Both places I ordered from sent me something akin to balsam wood.  I'm headed to a local source tomorrow to beg, so we'll see how that goes.  I'm also preparing for the riding habit workshop at the end of the month by building a shirt and a petticoat.  The shirt will be made into it's own post of construction techniques, since I learned soooo much while building it.  This project has already been a wonderful test of finding decent (and correct) materials.  I'm going with a light worsted wool in a dull green basing it on a 1774 fashion article mentioning "pearl green" as one of the popular riding habit colors for the year.  That's coming from WM Booth.  I also was recommended the "silk" velvet from Design Diva Fabrics for the cuffs and collar, which I'm getting in a coffee tone.  Linen lining and shirt are all left-overs from the usual places.  Silk for lining the visible parts will come from Burnley and Trowbridge (they have just the perfect color!!).  Lace for the shirt I ordered from Garden Fairies Trading Company.  I feel a bit like I'm getting off the usual topic, but it seems to take almost as much time finding the materials as it does building!
So, back to the usual.  Here are some poorly taken images of the last time I tried on my stays:

Hopefully I'll get some boning soon and can finish those up for the workshop as well!