Sunday, June 30, 2019

1895: Silly Season Outfit: Playing With Shirtwaists

The 1890s outfit has come apace. I was to wear it to tea Sunday afternoon, but the cool weather  has deserted us and summer Kentucky heat has taken over, so the prospect of swathing myself in a corset, corset cover, etc., double-flounced petticoat, enormous skirt, and trimmed shirtwaist, and a hat, and gloves, and cotton stockings, made me droop and think of fainting couches.

By the way, with this outfit I am just playing. I haven't done tons of research, just bits. I am not using entirely 1890s materials or even methods. I am just messing and mucking about in fabric and thread, and it's wonderfully freeing.

So where are we in the project?

The skirt is complete except for trim. I interlined the wide hem with lightweight interfacing to help it stand out. Interfacing washes, buckram doesn't.

Jeepers, the facing and interfacing sure added some weight. Tried to put the skirt and a petticoat on one of those hangers with clips, and it couldn't handle the poundage! Maybe I ought to weigh them :)

Shirtwaist Vision

The real action, though, has been the shirtwaist.

The idea is to have a multi-purpose shirtwaist: a plain version that would be simply shirtwaist-y, and good for picnics:

The Worthing Picnic. Sioux Valley Genealogical Society Don't the look like a happy group?

Here's a lightweight summer dress (source of image unknown):

By adding a white striped voile overlay to the shirtwaist, I'd have a slightly more dressy version.

Here is my inspiration for the slightly dressy version:

This came from Pinterest, and I have lost the reference.
Doesn't she look fresh and summery? Her face seems kind.

She sports a yummy neck bow and contrasting belt. Notice that her dress doesn't feature strong contrasts in color, as is so common in fashion plates and some extant garments. Mine will contrast between navy and white, but only in the plain, picnic version.

Another inspiration, this one from Quinn Burgess' 1890s Pinterest board:

This one has a neck bow, too. Oh, neck bows, how silly thou art, and how I love thee...

Mucking About With, and Mucking Up, a Plain Shirtwaist

The plain version? Well, I thought I could make up a shirtwaist rapidly, add a few tucks, and cover them with lace insertion in white, for just a little contrast, and be done with it.

That's what I did, and it went together in a matter of a week, with a few hours here, a few there, and no fuss.

As planned, I used the Sense and Sensibility 1909 Beatrix shirtwaist pattern, with the pattern option for a gathered front opening, with puffed elbow-length sleeves. Yes, it's a 1909 pattern. However, the lines are fairly similar, once tweaks are made. As you will see...

This pattern choice gave me a fit with some ease across the chest, but as I know from experience with the pattern, nothing that would allow more than a narrow tuck or two. And I was fine with that.

At the waistline, by contrast, I would have lots of excess to gather in as I pleasure dictated. By 1895 there could be a wee bit of fullness in the lower part of the shirtwaist.

For the sleeves I wanted the balloon shape of our summer girl with the flowers, as we'll call her.

So after peering at a few scans online of sleeve patterns from professional cutting guides, I enlarged the S and S sleeve pattern, making the sleeve head taller towards the outside of the sleeve, and the entire sleeve piece longer. The result was a much fuller sleeve.

Running up the shirtwaist was straightforward, because there are few pieces in the S and S pattern, and they line up as they should. As a blouse, the sewing methods are straightforward, too: French seams, plain hems, and sewing with the straight-stitch handcrank machine, and by hand on hems and sleeves.

The only change I made -- other than the sleeves -- was to us narrow seam allowances in the seams, to make the shirtwaist a little big so I could shape it later.

Once the shirtwaist was constructed, I was ready to play with pleats and tucks to give the shirtwaist the narrow-waisted, bosom-hiding shape of the era.

Here's an 1890s example from the FIDM Museum, with far more tucks, of course:

Silk shirtwaist, FIDM,
This part was fun!

First, I put on the Kay Gnagey corset, a mid-century style, but what I have, and it fits well, is light, and is comfortable.

Next, standing in front of the mirror, the shirtwaist pinned shut, and a cushion stuffed with more pins ready, I started to remove fullness and shape the silhouette:

- an outward-facing tuck over each shoulder about 2/3 the way out, brought the sleeve head up onto the edge of the shoulder, and created what remind me of bretelles.

- taking the body of the shoulder tuck below the shoulder, pointing towards the belly button, and pinning it down about midway between shoulder and bust.

Can you see the fullness begin to be controlled?

- taking four sizable tucks down near the waistline, all pointing away from center, to define the waist and create a peplum.

Assessing the tucks. No, those sleeves aren't starched yet.
Self-pinning is always a bit wonky, so a few minutes later found me on the carpet with the shirtwaist laid in front and the pincushion within easy reach. The pins were reset in a more balanced way, and the back fullness pulled in by carrying the shoulder tuck all the way to the waist. Then I sewed the tucks down, hung up the shirtwaist, and put it away to marinate until I was ready to cover all the sewing with broderie anglaise lace insertion, with a little more insertion laid in faux tucks for more oomph, to finish things off.

Tucks sewn, ready to be covered by lace insertion.
But... I didn't like the direction the shirtwaist was moving. It was going to become too froofy. I like lace on Edwardian and teens clothing, sure. Here's a dress I made back in 2011:

The 1909 linen dress after a picnic, via a bad camera photo. Ladybug is interested in all the scents.
In fact, in that dress, one of the nicest I've worn, and also one of the hardest to get into, we have lace on lace:

But I didn't want lace on this one after all. I wanted stronger, bolder lines.

So, reader, I am taking out the tucks and stitches, and we're going after this fluffy but tailored look,  below, specifically the shirtwaist on the lower left.

Note that some models are wearing their shirtwaists untucked, for a peplum look, while others have tucked theirs in.


Back with you after I have partially deconstructed and reconstructed the garment. More playtime is at hand. It's a good thing that this is play, because I sure am not taking an efficient route to a completed garment.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

1895: A Summer Silly Season Outfit

Oh brother, I was supposed to be working on the 1760s stays. Yet here I've packed those naughty, annoying things away, in favor of Belle Epoque swishy skirts.

I don't know why: blame it on the summer air. Blame it on the days and days of rain that grow wild daisies in profusion like those in our arboretum,

Daisies alongside along a path in the Kentucky Arboretum.
but that produced monochrome scenes while we were visiting family at Wrightsville Beach for vacation. The boys swam in waves roughly the color of the sky, and the color was not blue.

Cousin Thomas and Christopher boogie boarding at the beach.

Blame it on remembering energetic days at Heart Lake, blackberrying and swimming, and looking at black and white photos taken the previous -- 19th -- century, when a small hotel stood next to what became our family's barn-red cottage.

Families and with children in fat hair bows and fluffy white frocks stayed there, the deep woods to their back and the inviting water in front. Ladies wearing shirtwaists with puffed sleeves and sturdy boots tied up a rowboat or canoe at the stone dock, and more than a few people drank soda pop out of glass bottles, pushing the metal lids into the bottles, drinking the contents, and then tossing the bottles into the shallows. We used to wade, feeling with our feet, and once in a blue moon they touched hard roundish surfaces instead of mud or stones, and we would pull up a bottle whole. Sometimes people swam.

I'd look and look at the pictures, still kept there at the lake, imagining my wild-haired, mosquito-bitten self in shorts and tee shirt, swishing in a pretty skirt, purposefully taking a brisk walk or canoe paddle.

Remembering the Sense and Sensibility Beatrix shirtwaist pattern, and that pattern cover with the three young women rowing in still water, and stroking water lilies as they passed, like we used to do, I thought, why not? It's summer! Let's swish in a skirt and try on immense puffed sleeves and dream of rowing under a blue sky with a handful of fluffy clouds.

The cover from my copy of the Sense and Sensibility Beatrix shirtwaist pattern
Even if it's so humid that my hair turns to a living barometer or the air is dripping with the remains of another rain, like it's doing right now -- I can hear it outside the window on the sill of which Nutmeg kitty sits, ears twitching as she listens to raindrops patter on the porch roof.

A moody Nutmeg kitty watches the rain from a room dim with the cloudy day.

But I want immense sleeves, and a skirt with a ridiculous diameter. I already have a circa 1895 shirtwaist, cobbled from that Beatrix shirtwaist pattern, and a leg of mutton sleeve from Period Costume for Stage and Screen 1800-1930. It just needs and ironing and a tie, and check, a sensible summer top for rambling -- or thinking of rambling, anyway.

I last wore the shirtwaist when the twins were toddlers. You can see where Kentucky humidity, or holding a boy or two, has deflated one of the sleeves. Ha!

Hmmm: cotton skirt with a Truly Victorian 291E walking skirt pattern, and we have the swishy part of the rambling outfit. All I need is my old grubby paddock boots with the button-like press closures.

But want if I want a bodice to go with the skirt that's a little more afternoon tea-ish? I can use the Sense and Sensibility shirtwaist pattern again, but enlarge the puff sleeves pattern option to more ambitious proportions, and make it of the skirt fabric, with some voile gathered and tacked to the front for ambiance and neck bow tacked to the back for kicks. That should be fun!

Let's top it with my old 1790s silk-covered brimmed hat. It's 1890s size, and just needs some loops of ribbon, stiffened so they roll and make a gargantuan bow for the back, and some stash feathers sticking up at odd 1890s what-were-they-thinking angles. And the American Duchess Tavistock boots...

The outfit would then rather look like this one, that I found on Pinterest some time ago, and to which I lost the reference. My apologies...

Starting the Outfit

What with all the clouds, and the twins busy with cousins and bouncing around and summertime reading, there was time to play and whip right through the skirt.

I purchased Truly Victoria's epattern, and spent a few hours of a non-beach rainy afternoon on vacation taping the pieces together from printer paper and preparing the pattern. The epattern saves on shipping and paper. I hope that TV puts more patterns in their downloadable line.

A Push To Re-Use What I've Got and Reduce Fabric Use

Lot of "use" sounds in the above, yes?

Against better judgement, I purchased inexpensive new navy quilting cotton with white pin dots for skirt and bodice.

This was in direct contradiction to my recent decision to lower my hobby's carbon and environmental footprint by not buying new fabric.

I have been using stash fabric, vintage fabric, vintage and antique notions, and employing old sheets and such for years out of preference -- just like so many of us do -- but wanted to close up the gaps.

And discovered that late Victorian patterns eat fabric for breakfast, turning it into vast expanses of skirt and sleeve.

Only had I found used complete king size used sheets in any pattern would there have been enough fabric for skirt and bodice. And I would have driven all over Wilmington NC looking for it.

Do I make the costume as I want it? Change the specs to what's available used? Factor in gas for travel in choosing new fabric? Make a costume that can be used several ways over time to minimize fabric use?

I tried to balance these factors, and am not sure I chose well, but environmental impact is now part of the costume project equation, as it should be. It's smart and responsible to do so -- and being thrifty is just like our forebears usually were, only for somewhat different and more existential reasons now.

Leimomi Oakes of The Dreamstress discussed carbon footprint in a recent post. If you haven't read it, please do.

The Skirt

Let's sing a paean to Truly Victorian, shall we? I've used quite a number of their patterns now, have made them as designed and have played with them to create my own designs, and They. Always. Work.

They're well cut, the sizing makes sense, the directions usually are concise and clear, and the site's forum, on which I've lurked, a Godsend.

I loves them very much. Thank you, Heather McNaughton for the No-Fail, No-Nonsense pattern line. You made putting together that skirt just plain fun, even if my handcrank sewing machine (bought in the 2000s) made my right arm tired with all of those long skirt seams. Ooof.

Turn, turn, turn that handle.

The handcrank is actually pretty fast, once you get the hang of turning the crank with your right hand and guiding the fabric with your left. One of my favorite features is that you can go stitch by stitch to ease through existing seams, around steep curves, or what have you. There's no motor to endanger by going so slowly, and there's no electricity used, just your own energy. Gee, a good reason to fuel up with a muffin, eh?

Here I am running a seam using it: one twin managed the camera.

The talking is choppy. It seems I cannot speak and sew at the same time.

Here are all the pieces laid out in front of the windows that tell us we did have a few rays of sunshine once in a while.

The spinning wheel has been quiet for a while, interrupted by the sewing adventure.

The skirt has a front, side front, side back, and back, and a generous hem facing. It's meant to be made with medium-weight fabrics, and with stiffener in the hem. 1890s skirts tended to have stiff hems to stand out nicely. Have a look at the photo of the young lady further up in this post.

Here is that hem facing, before I cut it out. See how wide it is? By the 1890s, fabric was cheaper than labor, and people splurged on their hem treatments.

Yes, that's a wide hem facing.

We will see if the lack of a stiffener affects my skirt too much. I didn't want a hot and heavy skirt. The fabric is fairly loosely woven, and what body it has is thanks to masses of factory-applied sizing, I think. I will starch it so much that it stands up on its own and walks away.

I used French seams throughout. The fabric frays easily, and I didn't want to have to hand-finish each seam, and a French seam is stronger.

There are no other construction photos -- the pattern directions were clear, and there's not really much to tell about a plain skirt. Little scope for imagination, shall we say, nod, wink?

Here we are, the skirt, untrimmed and lacking its facing, but otherwise complete. Look at the diameter of the hem, will you? Holy cats!

I do have an original petticoat from what is likely the 1890s, given its shape. It's complete with massive flounce. It has no train like early Edwardian petticoats, and is too full, I think, for circa 1910-11, when the fluffy skirt revived briefly. It may have been made from an earlier broderie anglaise petticoat. It's good and strong and it fits, so I will carefully wash it and see how it does. Pictures in another post.

If we don't get enough poof and floof, I may add a flounce with a ruffle to the interior of the skirt.

As for trim, well, two rows of white bias tape will do nicely. Maybe I will get to that this weekend. Mid-1890s skirts were usually, mercifully plain. I am getting to like this rather bold but clean-lined era.

Next up, that bodice.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Boat Blue as the Summer Sky: First Outing of the Year

On Jacobson Park Lake with the boys and cousin Thomas
It happened: we sailed! Saturday was warm, hot by mid-May standards, but the breeze was fine, with baby gusts for extra interest.

Four in a boat just fits.

You see us with the mainsail almost fully extended -- an extra line (rope) tied high on the mast got in the way and prevented Christopher from fully hosting the sail with the halyard (rope that pulls the sail up and down). Just one of many glitches and lessons we had that afternoon, but it didn't dampen the joy of being out.

The jib sail -- the little one in front -- hasn't been put up yet. I was still getting used to being on the water again and wasn't ready for taking care of two sails, or the extra speed it could give us.

As it was, the water slipped by quickly. Noah tossed a leaf into the water and it spun behind us in a moment, a satisfying sight. I grew braver and Christopher and his cousin Thomas hoisted the jib sail, and they and Noah were silhouetted against a cloud of white sails.

Back the other direction, towards the sun and the fluffy clouds racing towards us, we somehow positioned the boat and her sails just right, and the entire thing hummed, a thrumming sound somewhere near middle C, as if the Kingfisher was a living creature lifting itself along with wings, and now she created a small wave off each side of her bow, the water curling and splashing to each side. These are the moments that make people who sail enormously happy, because at that moment they are at one with the wind.

Jacobson Park lake. Image courtesy Google Maps.

Docks make everyone nervous

It was time to come in. I was hoping to get my sister and my husband out for a turn. Noah, now at the helm -- that is, handling the tiller attached to the rudder which steers the boat -- the main sheet in his hand, steered us towards a fishing dock. We were moving fast. Suddenly I lost my nerve and thought we might hit the dock, so made Noah change course and steer for the main dock, where the paddle boats and kayaks launch. Paddle boats. Told you this was a small lake :}

We looked at each other. The boat was still moving so fast that had we gotten to the dock at that speed we would have smashed into it. So I told Christopher to take the sail in, that is, pull it down. He did.

The boat stopped far more quickly than I thought. About 30 feet from the dock.

Out paddles. My nephew hadn't paddled before, but confidently dipped in on the same side as Christopher.

The Kingfisher described a graceful circle.

There were fisherman on the shore and I know some of them were watching.

We were no closer to the dock. Already somewhat worn from the nerves of getting a 350-pound conglomeration of fiberglass, wood, steel, and dacron afloat and doing what it should with three tween boys aboard, all saying "Let me [do whatever]" and a lot of "Why not, Mama?", I was snappish, and Noah, who actually is pretty decent in a boat, having had two summers of sailing school, was snapping at me too. He'd never had this problem before, his little practice boat being basically a well-designed plastic bathtub called, aptly, an Optimist.

Learning to play in the bathtub, 2018. Christopher and Noah in sailing class.

Optimists ahoy! I told you they were floating bathtubs.
Actually, they move rather fast and can be raced.
There are no pictures that I know of to document this embarrassing moment, one of several that day. My sister and husband had set up under the shade of a sizable tree, and I just knew were lolling comfortably with my husband, and hanging out lazily while their children and spouse were doing doughnuts on the water a few hundred feet away.

I had the idea to make Christopher hoist just enough of the mainsail that I could spread my arms and hold it out to catch some wind, enough to propel us towards shore. So that's what we did and I looked pretty silly doing it, but we eventually reached the dock, navigating with the help of two people with paddles and Noah at rudder too. I suppose that was amusing to watch, and I am faintly proud of myself for thinking it up, although in retrospect we could have powered under the jib sail alone. Live and learn. I already said that last post. It won't be the last time!

Let's not talk about getting the boat in the water, or out of it

Okay, let's do, and laugh about it.

First, rigging the boat the night before for practice was a good idea.

Yes, I rig boats in a dress. Don't you?
However, leaving all the lines attached to make it easier to launch the next day does not make it easier. Quite the reverse. Too many ropes, too many helping hands, and too many tangles.

Second, I was so nervous I gave my keys to my brother in law and forgot to get them back, gave my wallet to my sister and she stowed in the car where I couldn't find it, and I forgot to take my phone with its camera on the boat. That's why no pictures from within the boat.

You know if the road to the launch "driveway" curves before it gets to the water, you're going to have a devil of a time. It does and we did.

Unless you drive on the grass, there's no straight way into the water.
See all those colored paddle boats? Lots of them were on the water when we were. A kayak or two, too.

To drive a trailer backwards, WikiHow says first you make a strategy. No kidding. They describe the process in 11 steps.

You have to steer the car the opposite direction to the trailer to get the latter to move the direction you want it to. That messes with my mind something fierce. I could do it as a kid for some reason, but not as a 55 year old. Mmmpppffff.

It took three of us, with me switching out for my brother in law, and 20 minutes to back the boat in successfully. With people eating hot dogs and ice cream and cold sodas 10 feet in front of us and watching the proceedings, and one guy suggesting he could do it for us. We declined politely, though it was a nice offer.

Image titled Back a Trailer Step 7
Um, yeah.
Image courtesy WikiHow.
It took even longer to get out of the water.

You have to point the boat up onto the trailer. You know, nose first.

But the painter -- the rope that you pull the boat with -- was tied to the back of the boat, and has been since I got it.

So Curte standing next to the trailer had the boat painter in his hand, and I was paddling like mad to try to turn the right way round, and the wind was catching at the boat and turning it wrong way round.

We eventually did it, and packed everything up and went for a beer and sparkling water at Kentucky Native Cafe Biergarten with the family.

Ah, a Weissbier with my sister, and Noah relaxing with sparkling water and
hist book on a boulder. Nine of us around the table, the breeze laughing,
glasses clinking, no music, just leaves and voices. Perfect.

The cafe on a quiet afternoon. Image courtesy Google.

So there we are. As my brother in law said, it was a shakedown cruise. He was right, but it was worth it.

Friday, May 17, 2019

If you're going to have a boat, there's going to be a story

If it's a sailboat, there will be more than one story, and most of them will include moments of confusion, idiocy, dumb luck, smaller or larger pots of money, and maybe a swim you weren't planning on.

Of course I will roll this story out for you. That's another rule of boat stories. They must be told.

Here she sits in the back yard, the evening before we take her out for the first time this season. 

Yes, there's a boat back there, beyond the deck with the windmill palms I
grew from about-seeds 25 years ago and bay-laurel and the stick-in-a-pot fig bush, and
birdbath, and big trees, and that black thing the boys' trampoline in the way back.
Lot 'o stuff and doings in that space.

The boys, Aunt Susan, and I all rigged her up. That took a while. Aunt Susan is an accomplished sailor on ocean and lakes, and for a long while lived aboard one on Chesapeake Bay. She sat quietly with my mother on the back deck -- house, not boat :) -- and allowed as it was probably a good idea that we were rigging the boat today, and not tomorrow at the lake, which is at a public park, and where the appearance of a sailboat attracts curious lookers-on. "Best to do it now and not be embarrassed tomorrow".  Um, indeed. 

The boys and I tangled, untangled, and retangled all the ropes, lines they're called -- halyards and sheets and painter and an un-canonical bit of old nylon rope tied to a cleat to help people working alone set up the mast -- and tried to recall how to step the mast, fasten the stays, attach the boom, run up the mainsail with the mainsail halyard, and rig the sheets, with just hints when we hesitated and looked thoughtful for more than a minute or two. All these names attached to interesting bits of steel and rope and dacron, all looking nothing like what they are called! Of course there was blood. There always is; that boat trailer and I have an uneasy time of it, and I swannee it bit me. A trickle coursed down my leg, unnoticed until well into the rigging venture.

I could hear soft conversation between my mother and Aunt Sue until it came time to figure out the traveler. Then the boys and I were truly stuck. Lines dangling like they shouldn't be, the boom drooping, nothing neat and tidy as it was when the guys from the Association had helped me last summer. Then she roused herself to come and help and we all huddled next to the stern, poking rope ends into blocks and hmmming. I was about to give up and go find the directions when Aunt Sue gave the fish eye to the whole mess, untied something I'd done, and we got it fixed up. Good. Because the instructions are online somewhere. No comments about me should have already found and read the instructions before beginning the process. No fun, that. I wanted to see what I could remember. Not nearly enough. Nor the tots, either. Oh well.

A little glossary

to rig = to set up everything on a boat so it's ready to sail.

a line = not something you write, but a rope on a boat. Off a boat it's a rope, on a boat it's a line. And there you are.

a halyard = hail the yard? Maybe in days past. It's a line that you pull to raise and lower the sail on the mast.

a painter = not to do with artwork at all. It's the line that you use to tie the boat to something.

a sheet = this one always made me laugh. Haul in the sheet! It's a line attached to a sail, that you pull on to control the sail and thus speed up or slow down the boat

a mast = the very tall pole of steel or wood that sticks pretty much straight up from the boat. The sails are attached to it. When you step it, you're taking it from being a long pole laying on top of the boat, and fitting it to a holder on the boat deck and raising it to perpendicular. That'll give you muscles. You try lifting a 20-foot something and setting it upright, holding it by one end.

a boom = not a noise, unless it hits your head, which it can and knock you flat. It happened to me once as a child and I probably got a goose egg bump from the impact. It's the pole that sticks out from the mast a few feet up from the deck. It holds the bottom of the main sail and can swing from one side of the boat to the other, depending on where the breeze is and where you want to go. Depending on where you let it sit, your sail will catch wind, or it won't. The sail sits in the triangular space between the mast and the boom.

a block = a pulley through which a line is run. There are blocks all over the place on a boat that carry lines from one spot to another. Even this little 11-foot boat has, let's see, 5 or more. I can't remember. Should be able to. Oh dear.

a cleat = a piece of metal shaped like a letter T that's bolted to a mast or a boom or the deck of the boat and about which you wrap the end of a line in a figure 8 to hold the line in place.

a traveler = a setup with a steel line and a pulley or two at the stern of the boat that helps control the boom. You'd don't absolutely need one, but mine has one and it sounds very boaty and nautical and all.

bow = front end of boat; stern = back end of boat; hull = the boat itself if you took everything off of it.

I probably left a lot of piece parts out, but that's what we we worked with and it was enough. Rigging took the greater part of an hour. Sure wish we had had pictures, but we were too involved to think of cameras.

Oh, did you know that most fiberglass boats have plugs, like bathtub plugs, only tighter, and if you don't plug your boat on the outside and plug the drain on the deck, the space between your hull (the boat proper, that floats) and the deck on top of it will fill with water and your poor boat will sink? Good to remember. I think somebody in the association sank last year or the year before, or was it a story I read in a boating magazine? Anyhow, memorable. Must remember to plug both before we set out tomorrow.

The roundaboat route to the back yard

The boat spent the winter in one of the barns at Curte's parents' farm. How it, and the SUV, both got stuck in a weather creek and had to be pulled out by Don on the farm tractor before it could get into the barn is another story for another day.

Anyhow, getting it out of the barn and to Paris, KY for repairs was its own little adventure. You see, the trailer wasn't in good shape when I bought it. The first place I took it to for repairs deals in cattle trailers, and horse trailers, and hay trailers and such. Not usually in battered trailers for an 11-foot-boat owned by someone wearing a dress and driving not-a-truck from the bigger town down the road. Wonder if things would have gone better if I'd arrived in the Ford 4x4 with the contractor's box in the back. Should have. I got taken for a ride, quite frankly. Three months's worth of one. At least the bill wasn't too high. Probably they felt guilty.

In any case, I couldn't get the trailer off the SUV hitch without a screwdriver used as a lever, or a crowbar, and usually with the help of a guy with big arm muscles. Wadn't going to work. So I had to get it to Paris.

First, though, out of the old tobacco barn. That barn is frequented by woodchucks, who burrow in the earthen floor and get everyone pretty frustrated with the big deep sudden holes. There was such a sudden hole mawing right in front of the boat's trailer when Curte and I walked in out of the sunshine. It's always brown light in an old barn. Brown and dusty. The boat was also blocked by random equipment, some unused fencing, and the big orange Kubota farm tractor with the ginormous mowing machine attached to the back and the front bucket loader. 

Curte climbed up on that thing, remarked that it hadn't been run in a while and that he didn't quite recall how to start it. So he played with buttons and levers until it rumbled up loudly  -- he looked up and aside at me that moment with one of those not-quite-expressionless Oh, My glances that he has that always makes me laugh -- and the tractor belched me a cloud of diesel fumes to breathe for a few minutes. Some more tests of levers and the mower lifted out of the way and the front loader bucket rose up with the whine all big equipment seems to make, and Curte lurched the tractor into movement and drove it out the double doors. Dang, those main wheels are big. I'd forgotten how big. Bigger than the old red Massey-Ferguson with the smokestack I'd mowed a field with once. Was I proud. Was it fun! Nephew Ethan does the mowing now, or Ben. I might ought to ask if I can sometime. Or maybe not.

So we maneuvered it out of the barn and hitched it to the SUV, and Curte told me to ride slowly to Paris over Hume Bedford Pike, with the flashers on for safety. We thought I might pop a trailer tire.

What it's like to see your boat following you. Every time I think of what it would be like to have
 the mast come through the back window. Not a pleasant thought.
Thank Heaven for no traffic. You'll find out why.
Most Kentucky horse farm fencing is now black. Used to be white
and the state was known for it, but that's a lot of painting to be done.

So I did. Here we are at a crossroads on one of the few cloudless mornings we've had all spring, the hedgerows high with wildflowers.

I made it to Mastin's and we leaned on the SUV and discussed the situation. They had a look at the hitch. It was indeed very broken, and the wrong size for the trailer and for my SUV. I was lucky, they said, that the hitch hadn't come undone, leaving me to drag the boat by its safety chains. 

Good heavens. We could have wrecked. Or the boat could've hit someone following too closely behind, which is practically the norm and which makes me both affrighted and truly m-a-d mad.

Anywhoo, we didn't wreck, they fixed the trailer in a night and the car got a tune-up and I drove the boat, singing (me, not the boat) down Paris Pike back to town on a second gorgeous day and got her snugged into the garage with room and to spare. At least until we put the bikes and the mower and the seed spreader in front of it.

Washing and polishing

Nah, you don't want to hear that story. Like running seams on a petticoat, it's a lot of handwork. Like a seam, all there is to look at afterwards is what should be there, a straight, neat seam, or a clean boat whose still scratched sides at least reflect a little of the greenery around it.

A boat should have a name

Our boat came to us named Sanity. That's what's in torn lettering on the stern. While I bought the boat indeed because I wanted some sanity and balance and some of the fun I remembered as a child to share with the boys, we don't need to advertise that, so a new name was in order.

Christopher thought Insanity would be good. 

Noah wanted Fishercat.

You can tell a bit about the boys right there.

I thought of SS Minnow, after Gilligan's Island.

Image result for gilligan's island
Courtesy, "Little-known facts about 'Gilligan's Island' and 'The Brady Bunch'".
Noah was worried that this would be an "inauspiscous" (inauspicious -- we practiced the word) name. I am inclined to agree, especially when I think of leaving a plug unplugged in the boat. 

We have settled on Swallow, after the lovely little dinghy in Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome, a classic in England but not well enough known here in the U.S. (More about her, and the version you can perhaps still sail on Coniston Water.) Funny to think that our Swallow is smaller than the original, which was small indeed!

Image result for swallows and amazons
John, Susan, Titty, and Roger (in the bow) in a BBC adaptation of the book. Image courtesy BBC2.

Tomorrow, Heaven and the heavens willing, we will be out in her, and I will have a camera.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

1740s-1760s Stays: Where's the Hip?

Oop, back sooner than planned.

I am having an Uh-Oh moment.

Okay, more of a D'oh! moment. I was going on my merry way  when I got cold feet. The pictures from the fitting showed a pretty thick look, and the front-most skirts (tabs) seemed useless, vestigial. Something that had escaped notice during the fitting itself. Another reason why pictures and taking your time are good things.

Back it was to looking at real stays for help. Since I can't use pictures from POF5, we will look at examples from online museum collections.

Here is a favorite pair of long stays. Other than lacking a full front opening and being for me scandalously low in the bustline, in all other respects they're just what I am looking for.

They have some outward bowing in the front, which is observable only nearly to the bottom of the stays, and very wide-set straps, but what else do you notice about them? Click on the image, and look closely...

The skirts (we call them tabs these days) aren't boned. They're floppy. Look at the boning pattern down around the hips. The skirts sit right along the pelvic line: marking it, showing it off. Each bone is set on an angle, so that, I hypothesize, the downward pressure is eased a little, and the bones slide a bit over the pelvis.

Yes, yes, I am guessing here. Might the stays bite on the hips when the wearer sits? Or do those bits of fabric and the boning pattern ease the situation to bearable or better?

Here is a pair from the Manchester Art Gallery in the UK (1947.1622). Well, the skirts, such as they are, are boned, and they don't splay, and they do not seem to demarcate the hip line: instead there is a curve. I suspect that the woman who wore these was slender.

Now look at some later stays. Is hip-biting the reason why that in so many later stays the skirts are boned, and apparently heat-treated to splay out permanently, thus creating a seating on the hips with some spring to it, to mitigate any digging in?

Look at these circa 1770s stays from the Met (C.I.40.173.6a–e). The skirts are a little wider and boned and the permanent splay is apparent. They appear to be made to sit on the hip line. The stays are covered in fashion fabric so the boning pattern is invisible, but the skirts are so stiff that I am sure they are boned.

Well, well.

I've got to decide whether or not the skirts will follow the hip line closely or not.

Also to decide: 
  • Do I risk discomfort and leave the skirts floppy, but obtain for sure a silhouette that nips the waist and elongates and slenderizes that line as much as possible? 
  • Or do I trust that heat-treating the bones will offer both a springy splay and a nicely nipped waistline that still offers that rigid line we have seen in the painted record?

Why so worried?

It's mostly about vanity.

Obviously, the vestigial tabs are rather stupid -- I do have to figure that out. Yet there's more to it, naturally.

Here's the picture of the front at the first fitting. Yes, with a few tweaks I will make, the stays fit. No, they are not cinched in at all. So of course the cone shape is going to be rather thick.

Yet it's hiding the hip line too much. The stays aren't getting the chance to demarcate the waist-to-hip break. While years of forced sedentaryness -- sedentarity?--  have added squishy padding that my age-modulated slower metabolism is finding it hard to banish (dang it! the gym's healthy but it isn't shrinking me very well), I do have a waist. The squoosh loves the arms, chest, hips, thighs and posterior section best. I have extra va-voom. Well, if I have it, why not let it show 18th century style as much as possible?

The current setup isn't doing it. The waistline is hitting squooshy stuff, not the hip bone. The front skirts are just sitting there, not doing anything. That's because they're not following the hip line: they're below it.

Until I sew that side seam lower, and risk tearing the mockup by cinching in the stays the way I want to wear them to regulate the squoosh, I won't know where to start the skirts, much less decide whether I want to bone them or not.

A second fitting is in order. I may have to break a few bones and maybe tear something :} 

Not my hair, not my hip. Heaven forbid -- you get old enough to know several people who have broken a hip, and you'll be skittish, to -- no, the stays, the stays.

Oh, and Why to Watch Where You Set Your Fake Hips

Flipping back through pictures, I found this from several years ago: my old stays, with hip pads sewn to them.

Are you thinking what I am thinking?

Uh-huh. Fake hips go on the hips, not at the waistline. The pads are set too high, which scootches up the waistline, which nudges up the apron ties. That's one reason why in pictures I am short-waisted.

The look would be a little better if I had set the pads lower. Live and learn.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

1740s-1760s Stays: Boned Mockup

Nutmeg is ready to chase some lacing.
I had to rescue the stays before we had a rat's nest.
Was making a boned mockup important? Could I have cut a toile and tried that on? Yes, but...a soft toile just didn't seem sufficient.

There was a lot to test out: besides a good fit, I want truly long stays and needed to see if I could sit in really long ones. Being able to sit down in a garment is pretty key. I wanted to test, too, how the bowing of the stomacher would look and how many rails to add. I wanted to have a long look at the overall silhouette: did it achieve the general lines of all those paintings we looked at in the last post?

Making a full mockup wasn't my idea: I got it from Morgan Donner and her video about her 17th century stays mockup.

So, I went ahead and took the time to make a bone mockup, spending perhaps 4 hours with getting the pattern on paper, maybe 5 or 6 sewing the channels, another five or six finishing the rest of it. Each of these steps in smaller chunks of time to fit it into Life (TM). That's significant time to spend on a mockup, but as I've seen by the results, it was really worth the effort.

Pulling a pattern from the drawing

Here's the pattern again, the well-known 1740's stays from Norah Waugh. I don't have a printer handy, and didn't have the patience to transfer the design to full scale on gridded paper.

So how did I do it? It's simple, if slightly scary, in that the measurements aren't exact. Copy the design right on your computer screen. Here's how I did it.
  • Enlarge the picture on your computer screen until the ruler printed on the corner of the pattern matches a real ruler held up to it. 
  • Place a sheet of bond paper over the screen. 
  • Gently trace through the paper. 
  • When you run out of paper, remember roughly where you were, put up another sheet of paper, or shift the image on the screen, and keep going. 
  • Tape everything together when you're done, overlapping the paper pieces where you traced anything twice, until everything lines up.
Once I had the pattern traced, I cut the pieces out, taped them together, and tried them on to see how they fit. The resulting stays were just a bit too small.

So I did the same thing again, but enlarged the screen until the pattern ruler was just a wee larger than the real one. Are there potential problems with enlarging the entire pattern until it's larger than life size? Yes, but in this case the change was very slight, and I hoped to have less enlarging to do during the fitting. You see, I had very -- very -- roughly measured the distance around the original pieces onscreen and estimated them to sort of fit a medium-sized person.

Making the mockup

I used an old cotton sheet for the fabric pieces because it's non-stretchy, fairly strong, and reuses a sheet too worn to be slept on. I cut the pattern with huge seam allowances so I could expand the stays as needed.

Then using Sanna of Rococo Atelier's tutorial for speedy stays for instructions on sewing the mockup, I put everything together. Because there are so many tutorials available, we'll go through this part quickly.

Nutmeg assisted with the process.  Oop, here she is again, hopping up onto the chair arm as I type, and meowing. She doesn't think I need to be typing...

After drawing the stays pieces on the fabric, I sewed the the outlines of the stays and made boning channels enough to stiffen the stays.

By the way, part of the time I used a 1911 Willcox and Gibbs chainstitch treadle sewing machine to do the stitching. For fun, here's a shot of it at work.

For ease in working, I placed multiple pieces of the stays per square of fabric -- it was simply easier to keep track of the fabric that way.

Somewhere along the line I changed out the sewing machine to the portable Singer 27 handcrank sewing machine. A chainstitch machine makes gorgeous, precise stitches, but chain stitches are built of a single thread, and when I was snipping around, I'd cut a thread accidentally, and oop, the seam would start coming undone. Lockstitches are better for this kind of work. Again, for fun, here is a view of the Singer.

Oh dear, can't help it. Nutmeg was just too cute sunning herself by stretching up on and nibbling one of our windmill palms, which we keep indoors in the winter. Alas, if you're going to read this blog, you're going to get too many kitty pictures.

I used split cane for the mockup boning. Because it was so weak, each channel needed two pieces of cane.

Here below are all the pieces were boned, including the stomacher. For some unknown reason I sewed the stomacher channels in a strong vee shape. Whatever.

Note the three horizontal rails down from the top of the stomacher. Just as Sanna did, I fitted the boning in intersecting channels rather than adding extra fabric to the stomacher back for more channels. I'll need to do differently for the final pair because those rails need to be strong.

Here below is how the rails curve the stomacher. Imagine the curve that can be made right the way down the stomacher if more rails are added.

Adding the eyelets to sheeting was harder than I thought it would be. Sheeting is made of closely woven thin threads, and the bone stiletto would not go through -- not without risking the stiletto tip. Had to start the eyelets with a giant needle.

Eyelet making took a while, even though each eyelet was pretty casually constructed. I made a significant error, in that I offset the eyelets for spiral lacing the same on both sides of the back, when actually an eyelet should be offset at the top on one side, and at the bottom on the other. Have to correct that when making the final pair.

For some reason the front opening's eyelets are not marked on the Waugh pattern as offset, but it didn't seem to affect the fitting. For the final pair, feel I should make offset outlets after all. It wouldn't do to have the fronts leaning crookedly.

The boned mockup ready to lace, below.

Nutmeg helped to control the lacing. She thought it was a useful job, and one she's suited for. 

The fitting

I did not lace the stays mockup nearly as firmly as I will the final pair. First, I wasn't sure the cane and sheeting would hold up. Second, I wanted to see how the fit would be when the stays were laced semi-loosely.

Unexpectedly, the mockup mostly fit.

The top of the stomacher is too high not because it was cut that way, but because I left the caning pieces too long. Easy fix.

The stomacher lacing starts too high up on the side front pieces: I will move the top eyelets almost an inch down.

The straps are pinned for convenience, but when worn, the front of the strap will just kiss the top of 
the side front, because the straps will be laced shut with ribbons.

If you look at the front peak, or bottom point, you will see that it sits very low on the torso. I sat down on a low, cushioned chair, and found sitting fine. Sitting did not push the stays up, something I worried would occur. The rise from the front point to the high hip is acute enough that the stays do not dig in anywhere.

I need just barely a little bit of extra fabric between the side front and the side back, just towards the bottom, so I can sew them further down towards the bottom and increase the shaping.

There is plenty of room under the arms, but the side front comes back far enough that none of the bust squooshes out.

Look at the top of the stomacher and see the outward bowing there. I want to retain that. Am working out what material to make the rails of. The current plan is to bend some pieces from hangers into shape and bind them to German plastic boning that has been already shaped using heat. Or I might use German boning only and reshape the curve when body heat distorts it.

Look at the lower part of the stays' front and see how there is a tiny bit of curving outwards. When I build in small reinforcing layers of buckram, and add the small, trowel-shaped point in wood, and add the busk, that line -- I really hope -- is going to flatten out.

The backs were laced loosely, with about a 2" gap.

You can see, again, where there needs to be a little more boned fabric at the lower side so that the side seam can be sewn further down. I will not add much space, just a half inch, maybe, to preserve the nipped waistline. I will also sew that area with doubled linen thread because the stays will take a lot of strain there. You can feel the pull on the mockup. It's rather obvious that this is an area where there'd be strain, but I'd not have thought of it if I hadn't made a mockup. 

Oog, not a good picture, in so many ways. However, it does show the stays' fit. 

Thus ended the fitting and that's where we stand for now.

I have a good deal of Lana and Nina's fleece to sort and get to the fiber mill, the boat needs to go from storage at the farm to our garage here at the house, and Easter is coming, with visiting family. It'll be a bit before we say hello again.

Meantime, a very happy spring -- or fall, if you're in that dreamy spot, New Zealand!