Fabmo Haul

Fabmo is an awesome volunteer-run store-ish place that gets crafty type donations from designers and sells them at discount prices in order to prevent the stuff from going into landfills. I had no plans to go to their last open sale because I’ve never managed to go without buying some fabric, but I had some crafty friends visiting for memorial day weekend and figured I would bring them because I’m such a good hostess.

So, here was my haul, for $16.50 total!

Two half-yards of terry in blue and pink and a yard of blue flannel in order to make some burp cloths (don’t worry, if this blog ever threatens to turn into a mommy crafting blog, I give you permission to thwap me with insertion lace until I get better).

4 yards of a wonderful teal coating material (I can’t get the color to show up correct in the photo). I suspect it is not 100% wool, but I also don’t think it’s 100% dead dino. Maybe one day I’ll do a burn test to figure it out. This is either going to become a modern hooded jacket, or an Edwardian skirt. (Or neither! The joys of a fabric stash),

I was only going to buy 3 yards, but there was a bit over 4 yards left on the bolt so at $2/yard I figured I would just take it all.

My most indulgent purchase; 1.5 yards of a ridiculously soft jersey that I have no idea what to do with. I almost never do knits!

And the most exciting purchase of all, a wooden tailor’s clapper for only $5!!!!

Squee a clapper!

I think every volunteer at the shop stopped to ask me what on earth this thing was and why I was so excited to buy it.

The flat side (bottom) is used to help press open seams. This is especially useful on bouncy wools – steam press the heck out of the seam, then press it open with the clapper until the seam cools down. The wood clapper helps to absorb the steam back out of the fabric, which keeps it nice and flat, instead of burning your hand off keeping the seam open while it cools.

The pointy bit and other strange shapes on top help you press open bizarre seams, especially enclosed ones. The pointy one is especially useful for pressing open seams on something like the upper and undersides of a collar, when you can’t get an iron in there.

So if you are anywhere around the Mountain View area, you should check out Fabmo for their awesome deals!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Kwik Sew 3531

So I made a long list of sewing I could do during pregnancy that I could do without having a waistline (like accessories, small fixes to existing dresses, actually making something for my husband).

Do you think any of this happened?

But I did have to make a jacket as the final project for my Intermediate Clothing Construction class at Cañada College, so I spent the last 4 weeks doing that. I chose Kwik Sew 3531 for two main reasons:

  1. It doesn’t close all the way in front, giving me a much better chance of having this fit after pregnancy.
  2. The teacher had a few copies of it for students, so I could just make a copy and not have to buy the pattern.

Why do pattern pictures always choose unfortunate styling? Nothing screams matronly like shiny polyester floral jacquard.

I used the literally oldest fabric in my stash – a fuschia wool I bought from the $5/yard discount table from the Joann in Santa Monica when I was in *high school*, officially making this wool at least 12 years old!

When choosing a pattern size you are supposed to go by high bust measurement (if bigger than a B cup) and do a full bust adjustment. I go an extra size down to account for my super narrow shoulders. So ,I cut an XS, did a 1″ full bust adjustment, and still had to trim another 5/8″ off the shoulders to get the seam to lie in the correct place. No wonder most commercial jackets make me look like a linebacker…

For the additional (almost) complete set of pattern adjustments I did between the tissue fitting and 2 muslins, check out the full album here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/137804647@N06/57C54y

This pattern doesn’t call for a lining. I decided I wanted to do welt pockets and a bound buttonhole (to practice the skills I learned in Tailoring class last semester, for which I still haven’t shown the jacket I made because I need to fix the button positioning…) which immediately made this jacket less casual. Welt pockets leave too many raw edges on the pocket backing to not cover them up with a lining.

The biggest chance I made was deciding to wear this jacket with the lapels open, instead of closed and overlapped like the pattern picture. I have a very short neck (sigh, high lacey Edwardian collars will never work for me), and having the jacket overlap super close to my neck was not at all flattering. It would have looked ok if I had redrafted the fronts and collar to overlap several inches lower, but I really didn’t have time for that.

This is the second jacket in a row where I’ve used this rainbow silk lining fabric! I bought the silk years ago intending for it to be a dress, but I have no idea what I was thinking.

It’s way too thin, and way too rainbow. It’s actually shot with white along the weft thread, so it’s a muted rainbow silk. Way too much everything for a dress. But perfect for a lining!

The finished jacket:



Do me a favor, and don’t look at this welt pocket too closely. This is why I wanted to practice them. It’s definitely a several-feet-away sort of detail. (As I show you a closeup photo…)


But look at this bound buttonhole all you like! I’m much better at making these.


See, pretty buttonhole!


Pink jacket plus rainbow lining is definitely A Lot. But it was also all stash fabric which trumps everything when I wasn’t sure how this wouldn’t turn out.



I’m honestly not sure I’m in love with this – I don’t really like where the fronts fall when I wear it open (I should have interfaced a bit less of the front pieces) and the back doesn’t have any shaping. I think I’ll need to put this on after pregnancy to see how it falls when closed (because it strains now) to see if I’m going to keep it or not. But everything in it was from the stash, making it good practice for pattern altering and tailoring skills!

Posted in clothing from this century? | 4 Comments

Orange Regency for Wine & Peace

The Greater Bay Area Costumer Guild put on a regency event called Wine & Peace at Wente Vinyards. Despite the fact that 1) I can’t really drink right now and 2) I don’t really like regency, I hacked together a regency dress in about 1.5 weeks so I could go in costume.

Turns out since regency dresses make everyone look pregnant, they are really great for when you are actually 5 months pregnant, and entirely hide that fact! And I had some super helpful friends to be my designated drinkers aka stunt livers.

I was also able to use this as an assignment for the Intermediate Clothing Construction class I’m taking right now, so win/win situation all around!

I have no regency undergarments, but this era looks decent over a pushup bra, so I went with that and a tank top instead of trying to also make stays (remember, hacking this thing together). Instead of buying a pattern, I drafted something based on this wonderful description of how a bib-front/apron-front gown works from The Hungarican Chick.

Drawing by The Hungarican Chick

The only fitted part here is the back, and that’s just princess seams! So I pulled out my fitted sloper, and played around with it until I had a empire princess back and something that fit over my front with one small bust dart. No pictures, cause I was in a rush.

For the sleeve, I turned my sleeve sloper into a two piece with a poofy part up top and fitted down below.

My fabric was a mystery burnt-orange from Fabmo that I got for $10 total. I suspect it’s a silk or a silk blend based on the feel (but haven’t done a burn test), and that it is also a sari, given that it was only 36″ wide. I thought I had 5 yards, but it turns out I had more like 4, which was slightly problematic in the end. I was only able to make the front skirt half as wide as I wanted, and I had to piece it with a seam right down the middle. I also had to piece the apron front together from scraps. Despite my measuring, the dress ended up about 2″ shorter than I would have liked. The whole thing is entirely machine sewn and serged wherever possible.


Literally the only scraps I had left when I was done.

Here’s the final dress:


From a few feet away, you can barely see the piecing in front!


And some closeups to try and explain how a bib-front gown goes on (although I think it’s better explained from the linked website above):


First the bodice closes in front in some manner, I used hooks and eyes. I may try and add a band under the bust to stop this from riding up, which it really likes to do.


The front comes up and the ties are brought around to the back.


Where they go through loops on the back (in order to stay up) and criss-cross back around to the front.


Then tie under the front to hold it secure. The apron is hanging down at this point, but the skirt is in place.


The apron is flipped up, and buttoned or pinned into place! I really need to trim down the neckline of the under-bodice, since it shouldn’t be showing above the apron. You can also see the piecing I had to do since I had no fabric left which was big enough!

One day I want to mess around with the apron, since I gathered it at the top and bottom right above and below the bust to the lining. Except I should know better than that, because that doesn’t create a nicely gathered bodice the whole way through. It’s just going to pooch across the whole thing (which is what it is doing). I’m thinking of either adding tucks, or gathering/ruching the entire thing all the way across.


Closeup of the pleats, since I like how they turned out. Because they are friggin knife pleats, I had to rip them out several times before it ended up looking nice…


Sleeve closeup. If I had realized how little fabric I had, I probably would have done a plain sleeve instead of this gathered two piece.


Since I finished this in plenty of time the night before, I also banged together a super quick reticule to carry my stuff from some leftover peach taffeta and gold lace (because everything is better with gold lace).


For the event, I popped on a pearl necklace, pearl earrings from Dames A La Mode, and a pashmina on my head for a turban. (Seriously, regency is super easy to hack together.) Over it I wore an amazing empire-waist vintage velvet coat I bought from Moon Zooom (a vintage thrift store) years ago. It definitely read as a fancy pelisse, and I really needed it because it was super cold that day. The boots are Robert Land, which I bought when he was heavily discounting shoes in his going-out-of-business sale.


Sorry, no front pictures without the coat. It was *really* cold outside.



A classic regency wedgie pose.


All the orange ladies!

Overall, this is a little more costume-y than historical. While all the elements are historical individually, not so much when you put them together. Puffy sleeves and shorter hems are seen together in the late regency period, but I don’t think they actually coexisted with bib-front gowns, which are seen earlier. But whatever, now I have a pretty dress to frolic around in for regency events!

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18th Century at the Legion of Honor

I’m in the usual sew-all-the-things for Jordan Con mode, which does not leave any time for posting-the-things. But somehow I’ve ended up in a state where I can’t actually progress on anything tonight, so a catchup post it is!

The Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild went to see the Casanova exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The theme was 18th century, so my choices were my saque, or my Eliza Schuyler italian gown. Since it’s a much easier to maneuver in, I went with Eliza Schuyler. My new addition was a bergere hat, which I trimmed with a bit of silk satin ribbon.

I believe this took exactly two Star Trek DS9 episodes to finish.

I wore my fichu on the outside of the dress, because I’m still super annoyed at how the shoulders always fall down. One day I need to suck it up, take the sleeves out, and reset the shoulder straps, but ugh that will be hours of boring work…

Here are some photos from the event:

At my end we were arguing really intently about whether a dress was an original or was made over later in the century. On the other end, they were examining some really cool ruched trim on a dress, trying to figure out how it was made. This is what happenings when costumers see extant dresses!

Green outfits in the stairwell

And here’s a fun extra – 18th century clothing is really quite excellent as maternity wear, since it’s relatively flexible in sizing.

While 18th century maternity corsets had side lacing, I just left the front lacing open a bit on my 19-week pregnant stomach:

Then I didn’t even bother sewing a proper stomacher, I just shoved a bit of extra material between the new gap in my bodice:

Just a wee bit more sticking out from the side!

And you can’t barely tell with my fichu ends covering the front!

Posted in 1700s, Elizabeth Schuyler | 4 Comments

2017 recap

2017 recap in March, so basically par for the course on this blog.

I started off slow by working on a Wheel of Time costume for Jordan Con, of the character Sevanna:


From January through July I worked on all the parts for my Eliza Schuyler gown, which included:


A completely handsewn chemise


A rather capacious split bumroll


A patchwork pocket


Blinged out shoes


Sheer fichu. I thought I could get this done in a 10 hour plane flight from London. Hah, that got me through the hand-rolled hem on about 2/3 of the big piece without even touching the ruffle.


Tiny hems and whipped gathers!

Which all went under the petticoat and italian gown:



There were interludes in that dress effort to do hats:


I actually wore this to an outdoor wedding where big hats were specifically requested!


This one has never been worn. One day your time will come with an 1890s day dress…

And a chemise:

And a 1960s Mad Men inspired dress, which is the first pattern I’ve truly drafted from scratch:

And a new stomacher and petticoat for my francaise:


A suffragette sash:

I ended the year with Ada Lovelace.

Which included a corded petticoat I never posted about:

(As well as a boring plain petticoat which is literally 2 widths of cotton gathered into a waistband so you don’t need photos, and a wee bumroll)


I also made a double breasted peacoat for my tailoring class which was super fun and a whole new method of construction. I finally got the buttons on, but for some reason they look crooked and uneven when the coat is on (even though they aren’t when the coat is unbuttoned on a table) so no pictures until I fix that.

In my head I thought I had only made two outfits (Eliza Schuyler and Ada Lovelace) and was judging myself, but in putting this post all together I see there is actually a lot more! Accessories and hats and undergarments really improve the look of an outfit and do take time.

I kept up with the Historical Sew Monthly from January to June, before Costume College totally derailed that.

For this upcoming year, my sewing plans are a bit awry because I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant!

This means that while Jordan Con is on and I’m working on a cosplay that will be fun with the belly, Costume College is right out since I’ll have a 2 week old infant. (Of course this was after I bought the wool and silk for a Mary Tudor gala gown. Oh well, neither CoCo or my fabric stash is going anywhere).

So that means I don’t want to sew anything this year involving a waistline, because who knows what size I’ll be by the end of this process. Which means this will definitely be the year of accessories and mending. (More like half year. I’m assuming once the small human being appears my sewing pace will drop dramatically…)

Posted in 1700s, Ada Lovelace dress, clothing from this century?, Elizabeth Schuyler, Fantasy/Scifi/Cosplay, Hats, Sevanna, Undergarments | Leave a comment

Presenting Ada Lovelace

So after sewing frantically fpr days, I finished my dress the day before the Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild was meeting up at Dickens Faire!

Then the morning of I got sick and couldn’t go.

Luckily I was able to go with friends on the last weekend. I wore the dress this with my standard Victorian corset, a corded petticoat (which I thought I posted about, but whoops it looks like I never did), a boring plain petticoat that wasn’t worth posting about, and a tucked petticoat (which I apparently made 2 years ago and never actually wore). There was still no time to make a bonnet, so I wore it with a tiny steampunk top hat I made in a class at Costume College.

I did the thing costumers really shouldn’t do, and put on the whole ensemble for the first time right before heading out.



It’s interesting to note that you really can’t see the fabric mini-stripes in a full length photo. How many patterns or stripes might be hiding in black & white Victorian photography?


I also got tapped near the entrance to participate in the Costume Contest later that afternoon! I didn’t win, mostly due to the unfinished-ness of the ensemble (no hat, gloves, etc) which I certainly can’t argue with. But I did get a whole bunch of nice compliments especially from the emcee Lynn which I’ll take!


Some closeups of little details that aren’t noticeable from far away, but make me super happy:


Gathering detail near the shoulder, and shoulder seam piping. I’ve shown this already but I love how it looks so much.


Everyone loves cartridge pleating! I stuck a strip of linen in the pleats to bulk them out, and it probably could have used a doubled-over strip for even more bulk.


There are two rows of gathering above the cuff to bring the sleeve in from the poof over the elbow. The cuff is piped all around.


And for a hidden surprise, the cuff is lined with a bit of red silk! Costume in Detail had an 1830s dress where the cuffs were lined with black silk, and I thought that was a fun idea.

I’m pleased, but there are a whole bunch of things I want to change for the next wearing:

  • Actually finish a bonnet
  • And a chemisette
  • And a big bias ruffle on the skirt
  • And a belt
  • Move the sleeve ruffles up the sleeve an inch or two, so I can do the same for the lower sleeve portions. I felt like they got a bit scrunched which actually made them look less poofy.
  • Move the hooks and eyes over a bit on the waist. I never tried this dress on with the 3 petticoats, and it ended up being really tight over all of those, which is causing wrinkles in the back.
  • After all that talk about bumrolls last post, I’m not thrilled with the shape this one gave. It was too shelf-like instead of a gentle enhancement. I may try and do something with canvas like so.
  • Starch the petticoats
  • Uh, closures on the petticoats. Or just keep pinning them, whatever.
  • Pockets! Every dress should have pockets.

Phew, so lots of things to change which will enhance the ensemble, and most of them won’t actually be noticeable to other people. But I still had a ton of fun wearing this, and I finally got 2 year old planned project finished!

Posted in 1830s, Ada Lovelace dress | 8 Comments

Redonkulous Sleeves, plus Hilarious Notes from the Workwoman’s Guide

Last up, I made a bodice!

Next, I needed to figure out how to do ridiculous late 1830s sleeves. By this point, the fullness had collapsed at the top of the arm, leaving you with all the fullness from the elbow down. Kindof like a bishop sleeve on steroids.

I chose to make my sleeves as two pieces; an upper and a lower sleeve. You could do them as one piece and pleat the top down to fit snugly, but pleats don’t show up very well on a narrow stripe fabric so I didn’t think it would be worth it. Also, I want to be able to use this dress as an evening gown, which I can do by removing the lower sleeves and just leaving the upper part.

For the upper sleeve, I grabbed the sleeve pattern from Truly Victorian 440 (which I have never actually used). I figured this would fit the off-the-shoulder bodice armscye well enough. I didn’t use the whole sleeve, only the top part which would be above the elbow.


Then I mocked it up and put it on. Of course, this sleeve was way too big around, when I wanted something close fitting around the arm. Sheesh, looking back at the pattern it was super obvious this would be wide. You’d think it was the first time I’d ever seen a sleeve pattern before… I ended up taking out about 6 inches of width from the bottom.

For the lower sleeve, I first tried scaling something up from The Workwoman’s Guide (see below) but I didn’t like the shape. So I went to the old standby Janet Arnold. I started with one of the giant 1830s sleeve patterns, but left off the top part so as to approximate a sleeve starting at elbow length.


Yes, this is a sleeve pattern.

I made a mockup, and pinned it onto the upper sleeve with some fabric scraps to see if I liked the double-ruffle look I had planned.



Looking good! I cut the sleeves out of fabric and lining fabric. I interlined the top opening with a strip of crinoline to keep them nice and poofy. This is accurate for 1890s sleeves, but not so much for 1830s. I think they only used separate puffs at this point to keep sleeves large, as none of the examples in Costume In Detail describe a stiff interlining.


I kept a note pinned to the right sleeve the whole time so I would know which was which until it was finally sewed on.


With a bias binding at the top and a cuff at the bottom, sleeves are finally done!

And now for a detour –

The Workwoman’s Guide is a book from 1840 aimed at middling class women on various domestic arts, with lots of emphasis on sewing and clothing construction. You can download it for free on Google Books.

Among other things, it also has advice on packing, drying clothes, folding clothes, mourning clothes, etc. I figured something for lower/middling women of 1840 would be perfectly valid for upper class women of the late 1830s. It had some useful notes, plus some hilarious notes which I’m including down below.

“It is a good plan to line silk and merino, or stuff gown bodies, with strong linen or brown Holland as it keeps them in shape, by preventing them from stretching.” ( pg 106)

  • Check! I used an old sheet to line the bodice and face the hem of my dress. It was fairly stiff with a lot of body, and it reminded me of the color of the brown polished cotton you often see in dresses of the time.

“Checks are becoming to tall people, and stripes to short ones, as the former rather diminish, while the latter give an appearance of greater length to the figure than is natural to it, in the same way that a striped paper makes a room look higher, than one which is checked, or of which the pattern goes round instead of from top to bottom.” (pg 106)

  • Hah! I happen to think I would look fine in either, but I did use a striped silk for this dress. It is left as an exercise to the reader as to whether I’m getting an appearance of greater length.

Cap for a young lady – this is a pretty cap for a young lady or invalid as it is not liable to be crushed by lying on a sofa.

  • Lol. I do a lot of lying around on a sofa, but never in a cap.

“A widow’s cap is a very difficult thing to make well, and looks particularly slovenly when ill put together.”

  • *clutches pearls* Not a slovenly cap!

“Bustles are worn by those whose shape requires something to set off the shape of the gown. They should not be too large, or they look indelicate, or in bad taste.”

  • I do plan to make a small bumroll (bustle) to wear with this gown, just to add a bit of extra oomph. But certainly not a large enough one to be in bad taste!

Next up, frantically working to get the dress into a wearable (if not finished) state before Dickens.

Posted in 1830s, Ada Lovelace dress, Uncategorized | 1 Comment