Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Striped Caraco Jacket

I ended up with about 1.5 yards of a beautiful silk striped taffeta from searching for fabrics for a client.  I pondered it for a while, not knowing what I could possibly make out of such a small amount.  Then I came across this jacket.  I had to try.  Turns out, it was practically made for it.  The first thing I did was figure the width based on the stripes.  I used the measurements from my own stripes rather than trying to figure out the originals, since I would optimally like the stripes to line up in a similar way.  I used some old shapes from other garments to work out length measures.  I threw together a mock-up on Saturday night, which fit almost perfectly!  I worked all of Sunday and most of Monday, and got to the point of trimming and inserting the sleeves.  It was a very quick and easy garment to make, thankfully.

The stomacher is a separate piece, pinned in for wear.  There are tucks which run the entire length of the front, only tacked down from the bottom of the armscye to the waist.  The front trim tapers as it goes up.

The fronts and backs are actually one piece connected through the skirt, the only full length seam being center back.  I treated the construction similar to the Polonaise gown, with backstitched side seams.

The lining is only to the waist, attached to the pleats so it doesn't show on the waistline.  You can also see where I did a short cut by cutting the fronts on the selvedge, so I only had to fold it back once and stitch the trim over it rather than roll it.

For the trim, I folded back the edges to finish.  The bodice trim was gathered using a whip stitch a varying distance from the edge to create a little ruffle.  The inside edge was tacked down with small tucks sticking up.  The cuff was done similarly, but with an extra gathering line near the top.

The front tuck is left loose over the shoulder.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Under the Redcoat 2011

This was the third year I attended (I avoided the heat last year), and was the best year yet.  There seemed to be a very fleshed out camp and swarms of guests with cameras (we stopped counting pictures taken after the first 15 minutes of attendance).  Gwendolyn and I arrived on Saturday morning and promenaded about the town.  In the afternoon we were fortunate enough to join an amazing team in serving the Officers Dinner.  The tradition of this is that the Ensign would set up a large meal to impress superiors.  The Ensign in real life is a food historian.  I can not begin to explain the enormity of this meal.  We served about 40 separate dishes to twelve officers.  Some had been baked ahead of time (the apple cake needs to sit in the cold for a while in order to be edible!), but a great deal of the dishes were cooked over the open fire outside that day.  I'm still in awe of the cooking team.  There was even ice cream!  I, of course, didn't get any pictures of that, but I know many other people did (and I think a CW guy was taking video of it as well).  It'll turn up somewhere and I'll share it then.  We also attending the evening behind Chownings Tavern, came back Sunday afternoon to watch the troops march out, and attended a harpsichord concert with some other beautiful costumers that evening (we were under dressed!).

I made two outfits for the weekend, day and evening.  I didn't start my evening jacket until late Saturday night to be honest, it was a last minute decision.  Fortunately there was a pause in shoe making on Sunday and Monday, so I was able to do all but trim and insert the sleeves then.

My day ensemble was a Polonaise jacket in cotton dimity (from B&T).  The trim was inspired by the portrait of the Duchess of Gordon.  It's all hand-rolled.  Pleated on the petticoat and sleeves, but gathered around the bodice.  There are silk gauze ruffles around the neck and sleeves as well.

There was also inspiration taken from this image which has a very nice length and balance.  The ribbon is wide silk satin which I dyed to go with my parasol.  You can also see my pretty yellow shoes poking out!

I think the back is my favorite part though.  It just fits so well and curves over the small bum roll perfectly.  I did my hair with rag curls, using a rat on top and three small hair pieces in back.  I was asked once if hedgehog type styles were use to cover up hair loss.  After the weekend, I'm more sure they caused it!

 My evening ensemble was of a caraco jacket and petticoat based on this extant.  I made the jacket from about 1 1/2 yards of 54" wide silk, so there was definitely not going to be a matching petticoat.  I didn't have any pieces larger than 2x2 left over!  It's a silk taffeta stripe, very light weight.  The trim is folded under at the edge and gathered.  The inside edge is tacked down with small pleats.

I tried to match the stripes to the originally as closely as I could manage.  There are three seams in the back, however I cut the bodice as only two pieces.  I would have made it one, but I needed 64" of width for the skirt.  There is also a pleat that runs from the top of the shoulder down to the waist in front, partially stitched down.

I'll be going more in-depth on the ensembles later and hopefully I'll stumble across some images of the camp area I can link you to.  Oh, and my shoes did wonderfully!  They still look great, the dust and dirt doesn't show on the fabric at all.  My feet are tired, but that's because I walked about for two days!  I will admit to adding a small insert for the ball of my foot on Sunday to help with fatigue.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cordwaining 3

I officially finished my shoes yesterday, so I figured I should finally catch the blog up to the process!  Last time I had assembled the uppers and was beginning to work on the soles.

Once the sole is fleshed and cut down to shape, the "hold-fast" is put in.  That's simply where the stitching area is.  In this case, there's a 1/4" section around the outside which is cut down.  A grove is opened up 1/4" in from that.  The awl holes run between those two sections, fanning out around the toe. 

Once the sole is finished the whole last is wrapped in paper.  Since I'm working with a silk which will be up against it, there needs to be protection.  Wet leather bleeds easily and other things can rub off of the wood and stain.

The upper is then lasted, inside-out.  There's a specific process to this, starting with the heel up an inch, then lasting the toe and pulling the heel down.  From there it's just a matter of working back and forth to remove the wrinkles and stretch everything tightly.

The paper around the sole is ripped off and stitching begins.  The awl holes are extended into the uppers and opened up as much as possible without ripping out.  The thread is actually 9 linen threads twisted with shoemakers wax and each hole has both ends passed through.

Once the stitching is finished, the extra allowance is cut back and hammered down.  You can see the wrapped threads which are helping to hold the instep leather in it's place.  They'll be cut for unlasting and turning.

At this point, the concept of turning looks impossible.  The sole leather is wetted down carefully so it doesn't bleed into the upper to help.

Once a certain point is reached a stick of some kind is used to help turn.  Carefully pushing left, right, center on the sole while gently pulling on the tongue.

Side view of turning.  It's almost fully turned.  You can see the paper which is sticking out of the stitching area.  What can be seen/reached will be removed, but many originals have small paper scraps in this area.

Both shoes have been turned and the insoles have been cut down to shape.

The shoe on the right was my first and I made the awl holes too deep.  You can see a "ladder" effect on the bottom.

The wooden heels were partially shaped, but much too large.  Here it's been trimmed down to a proper shape.

The insole is prepared in a very similar way to the sole.  The outside 1/4" is cut at an angle so there's no bump visible in the upper once finished.  The front portion is also angled out to almost nothing on the edge, but it's much more gradual.  There is also a peg holding the front portion in rather than the tack in the back.  This allows for the insole and last to be inserted into the shoe at the same time.  The small slit will allow the last to be pulled out easily in the end.

Paste is applied to the front portion of the insole and the last is inserted back into the shoe (with a lot of pushing and pulling).  The sole is pulled back and tacked to keep out of the way.

I originally was going to make the heel cover out of the silk, however when it was tried it just wouldn't stretch and give enough to form the complex shape.  So, it was removed and a whittaw heel cover was stitched on instead.  The heel is pasted in and the leather is smoothed as much as possible over it using tacks and tape to draw the center down.  There will also be some stitching back and forth along the front of the heel to pull the heel cover together.

Once the heel cover looks nice and the paste has dried, the sole is released and pounded (wet) to the shape inside the heel.  A few tacks hold it temporarily.

The finished shoes!  The sole has been trimmed back to a nice point, flush once it reaches the heel.

There is fine stitching to hold the sole to the heel cover.  The wooden heel is held in because of this snugness and the paste.  There are two pegs driven into the heel through the sole for a bit more stability.  There is also a second piece of leather attached to the bottom of the heel.  The first one is stitched on around the edges.  The second one is only pegged on, making it more easy to remove when it wears out.

You can see how the stitching runs around the bottom of the heel cover.

There are many "issues" I can now see with my shoes.  Nothing serious, but things I want to improve the quality of next time.  The speed and quality of the second shoe was dramatically better, so hopefully things will continue to get easier every time.  I'll be testing them out this weekend, so the final question of how comfortable they are will be well answered!

Friday, June 17, 2011


This is the time period where the waist begins to rise.  Many gowns have their waist emphasized by a broad sash (could the appearance of a higher waist have developed from these?).  We can see the transition from the fluff of the late 1780s to the slender column of the 1800s.

Closure: Closed front and Crossed v-necks
Neckline: Broad and rounded or V
Skirt opening: With Fitted bodices 8" plus, with v-necks can be none, Round gowns common
Waistline: Pointed and flat most common

Style: Quarter backs most common, some English still seen
Skirt Pleats: Often less than 1/4", some with cartridge pleats
Shoulder Span: Sleeve corner very high and narrow

Long sleeves in two-part and Elbow length in one-part.

Sleeves:  Small ruffle at hem of sleeve
Style: Mostly hem ruffle on petticoat, some trim down skirt opening
Edges: Rolled hem
Content: Self-fabric or contrast fabric

Solid silk, cotton gauze/muslin, printed cotton, and some embroidered muslins

Waistline is rising quickly, emphasized by sashes.  The bum has lost fullness, but the puffed kerchief is still common.

Summer, 1794

Autumn, 1794

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bum Roll Rigatta

Today will be a short post.  Things are a bit stressful right now (and will be for two weeks) which seems to be aggravating my arrhythmia.  So, I'm saving the 2-3 hours I've been taking per post and getting some work done.  I'll be back with the timeline soon.  In the mean time, here's a random, fun image from the world of the 18th century: