Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Completed: Wool Christmas Skirt with Ruche

This skirt was supposed to debut at Thanksgiving, but because I sew in short spaces between work, babycare and household tasks, it was only Christmas Eve, early in the morning, that the last ruching was completed. I wore it to Christmas Eve service and then to a dinner date at Jonathan's on Saturday, and now again to a lunch date.

Photo: the skirt debuts

The skirt panels (there are only two!) and side placket closure are copied from a plain denim skirt my mother owns and that I have always admired the fit of, but the rest is my design: I used no waistband, facing the interior instead, and sandwiching a full-length lining there; I also faced the bottom with a 2-inch hem for better hang, and of course, adding the ruche :}

The ruche idea originated as I was reading Frances Grimble's The Lady's Stratagem: so many skirts of the late 1820s focus attention on the skirt hem, and the general lightly A-line cut with slim hips was popular too. I thought, ooh, ruches are popular this year, and wouldn't it be fun to see a little ruche flutter near my feet!

Photo: skirt front


I made the skirt using, excepting the bag lining, generally period methods...from herringboning hems to placket construction to the hand-gathered and feathered ruche. The extra care makes the skirt sturdier and certainly makes the interior feel more finished. :}

The skirt panels: traced and cut

The skirt is constructed of only two panels, front and back. They are shaped with a curve at the hips on the side seams and a slight A-line cut. There is no need for darts at the waistline, at least in my case. To copy the panels from my mother's skirt, I laid the lining fabric out on one of those fold-up cardboard boards marked with inches that Hancock's sells, pinned the skirt as flat on top as I could, and traced around the edge with tailors chalk. First I made sure that back and front were the same cut... Jennie Chancey has instructions, titled How to Make a Pattern from a Favorite Garment for copying a pattern on her Sense and Sensibility Patterns site.

After pinning the lining together and trying it on to test fit it, I cut out the fashion fabric by using the lining piece as a pattern. At the same time, I traced the bottom curve of the skirt over scrap fabric and cut out a two-inch hem facing (with extra for seam and hem allowances), then repeated the process at the waistline for a waist facing.


Next I pinned, basted and stitched up the side seams, and left them raw since the wool doesn't ravel badly and there is a lining to protect it. I left one side with a nine or so inch unsewed space at the top for the placket.

Then I pinned, basted and stitched the lining's side seams, again leaving room for a placket and machine-hemmed the lining bottom.

Attaching the lining: a sandwich effort

Then it was time to attach the lining to the skirt. I made a "sandwich": the raw top of the waist facing and raw top of the skirt right sides together, with the raw top edge of the lining in between. I pinned, basted and stitched it. I then trimmed the seam allowances very close to the stitching to reduce bulk, turned the facing inwards, and voila, the lining was attached and the seam hidden. To prevent the facing from rolling towards the outside when the skirt was worn, I carefully edge-stitched the skirt top from the outside.

I feel very fortunate to use a Willcox and Gibbs chainstitch machine: the presser foot is very narrow indeed, has a super grip on the feed dogs, which are also placed close together, and I use an extremely sharp needle. This helps me to sew neatly (usually) very, very close to the edge of the fabric: a wider presser foot would make it harder to see what I was doing, and the wider-set feed dogs would have a harder time gripping the fabric, because only one side would probably be gripped. Here are some shots of the machine from an 2006 post.

The skirt placket

Next, the placket. I made both underlap and overlap pieces for this skirt, as the wool is thin and needs some extra body. The original skirt just had an underlap, but that skirt was denim. Instructions on making this sort of placket are covered in a previous post, titled Edwardian and Victorian Skirt Plackets: Where to Find How Tos.

One nice little touch: Chapter XV of Frances Grimble's The Lady's Strategem, titled "The Art of the Mantua Maker or Cutter of Gowns", covers what was then called "plain sewing" in quite a bit of detail, as she has translated sewing manuals from French. At that time seamstresses made quite a bit of use of tight overcasting to finish edges of fabric, and to seam two pieces of fabric together!

Since I didn't want to create unnecessary bulk where the underlap and overlap are joined at the bottom, I pinned the two pieces together and tightly overcasted them, placing the stitches very close together, to prevent ravelling of the raw edges, and the stitches just far enough back from the raw edge to hold the seam securely. This method probably would not work on seams that get a lot of stress or with ravelly fabric. Here, however, it prevented me from having to hem or otherwise finish the bottom of the placket and so doing, create extra bulk.

Interior finishes, fasteners, and facings

Next, interior finishes at the waistline and lining placket: I roll-hemmed the edges of the lining at the placket opening, and carefully herringbone stitched the lower edge of the waist facing down onto the lining (not catching the real skirt fabric, however). Herringbone stitches have give to them, so they can take a little pulling, and they look neat! You see them used in the linings of older nicely tailored coats, for instance. If you've never used a herringbone stitch before, check the manuals at http://www.VintageSewing.info.

Photo: interior finishes at the placket. If you click on the image to see the large version, you'll probably spot the place where my vaunted neat edge stitching wavered a bit!

Let's see, after that, I attached the hem facing at the skirt bottom...same method as the waist facing, but without sandwiching the lining, as the lining hangs free. I hemmed it to the inside of the skirt carefully with what the Regency era called "side stitches" and later eras called a hemming stitch.

Then it was on to attaching hooks and eyes and snaps. I do not like zippers, as a matter of taste. As for using both hooks and eyes and snaps, some Edwardian manuals suggest putting a few hooks and eyes up top, then snaps lower down, where there is less stress. So that is what I did.

Photo: herringbone stitches attach the waistline facine to the lining. You may note that there is an incipient wrinkle in the facing: I gained a little weight at Christmas and gracious, if it isn't stressing the skirt! I had it fitting very closely, you see. Hmmm.

The ruche

At last, the ruche. I used fabric on the straight of grain rather than the bias, since I like the body of it. I cut it three inches wide (I wanted a bold effect!), cutting two lengths twice the length of my skirt hem circumference. After seaming them into one long length, I sewed a tight stitch straight down each long side about a half inch from the raw edge to try to control excessive fraying.

After this, I ruched. All this means is that I took a longish needle, threaded it, and sewed basting stitches down the longways middle of the fabric. I pushed several little gathers of fabric onto the needle before drawing the thread through; this helped the stitches be of even length and speeded the sewing. Every six inches or so I gathered the fabric and sewed a backstitch or two to hold that section so it wouldn't "ungather", then repeated the process.

By the way, 2x the skirt circumference was not long enough for a full ruche. I ended up having to cut another length, to ruche that, and to, carefully as I could, hand-seam it to the other pieces without showing. It worked pretty well. That's what can happen when you work by guess and by golly, no?

After that? I "feathered" the edges of the fabric by laboriously pulling threads until I had a narrow fringe.

Photo: the ruche. Note the line of stitching near each feathered edge, to, I hope, control raveling a bit

The final step: I tacked the ruche down at precisely the level where the skirt facing was hemmed inside the skirt: this hides any showthrough of those hemming stitches :}

There you have it. I used lots of handwork for just a simply two-panel skirt, but I enjoy handwork, and the result is, I think, pleasing.

A thought about the fabric: it's a very lightweight wool plaid, in cocoa with blue and pink bars, so soft as to barely be seen and I believe the fabric is a worsted...I am not over-familiar yet with wools. It's from Hancock Fabrics, which each year seems to carry at least one very nice wool. Anyhow, the wool has a marvelous drape, but unlike heavier wools, is apt to wrinkle if sat upon long. I see some wrinkles in the front caused, I am sure, by holding warm little Christopher for almost an hour in the pew box...he'd act like a warm iron :}

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours, a very merry Christmas. The creche you see belonged to my mother's family, and battered as the figurines are, I couldn't imagine unwrapping and setting out any others. Displaying them, I see the Christmas miracle, but also memories.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Christmas Skirt...Almost There

Wouldn't you know that the eve before Christmas Eve I'd be sitting on the floor, under a blanket, as close to the fire as I can get without scorching, ruching madly and then equally madly tacking the ruche to the Christmas skirt that was supposed to debut at Thanksgiving.

While we're using the word "mad", let me say I was rather mad to find that the estimate of 2 times the skirt circumference for the ruche was by just 6 inches not enough, and so I have to cut more fabric, ruche it, and then stitch it to the rest and try to hide the seams. And have until 4:30 tomorrow, when we leave for Christmas Eve service, to do it...in between work, baby care, cookie baking and pasta sauce making. Oh, and laundry. Umm hmmm. Typical.

Photo: a peek at the Christmas skirt with its ruche set at top of the hem. Don't ruches remind you of fancy cake decorations?

Monday, December 22, 2008

From Fall to Winter...But Lengthening Days

Yesterday marked the winter solstice, the darkest, shortest day of the year. This morning it already feels brighter to me, for now, each day, there will be a little more light, and then a little more, and a little more, until it is spring again.

Photo: Noah behind the potted oregano-cum-geranium, which is jammed next to a Chinese fan palm.

Meanwhile, we'll appreciate how the barren tree branches are sketches in the sky, how the sun reflects from the occasional snows, how the winter birds sing on the random warmish afternoon, when there is a hint of earth smell in the air.

Indoors, we will create a little springtime of our own, in the back guestroom, where morning and afternoon, it is always bright.

Photo: Christopher inspects the same plants, the geranium bravely blooming. Outside, rain patters on the window.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On Virtue

"That virtue which requires to be ever guarded is scarce worth the centinel."
Oliver Goldsmith
The Vicar of Wakefield

For some reason, The Vicar of Wakefield, an old copy of which I picked up at the International Book Project, is resonating, lines and scenes from the book interrupting mundane tasks today like making bean soup and dishwashing.

Virtue comes from within, I agree, and if it's set deeply enough, if it's normal to you, you'll respond less to invitations to act inappropriately, yes?

But Oliver, don't forget about the influence of the people around you!

It appears -- the book is as yet half unread -- that our Wakefield family is about to find that norms from without are going to have a hard time balancing with the norms within.

Oh, my baby boys, what we have ahead of us, too...


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Memories of a Fall Photo Shoot

Fall is long gone, say the snow-trimmed trees, fall is far away, say the blackened walnut hulls lurking underneath their cold white blanket.

Yet this fall and two happy twin boys romping during our late October photo shoot will remain fresh and green in my memory so long as I live.

Photos, right and below: Noah in Ashland's walled garden; Christopher holds a black walnut.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving for Everything

...My cup runneth over.

23rd psalm

...Our cup runneth over...

May your Thanksgiving run over with thankfulness too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Edwardian Hairstyle: Four-Part Video Tutorial

Here is a fascinating, four-part video tutorial on creating a very pretty Edwardian hairstyle. It's not a Gibson-girl pompadour, but more complex, more sculpted, as video author Wildilocks explains. Ms. Wildilocks is a professional hairstylist, and the style she creates is not for the faint of heart, and could not be done by onesself.

Photo: the completed hairstyle

Nevertheless, for those of us sans friends or family who can style our hair, there are still techniques that we can learn.

Worth watching!

Part 1
In which we learn how to part the hair, start the several ponytails that form the bases of the hairstyle, and start creating rolls and puffs.

Part 2
In which we focus first on the top rolls and puffs, and then on the back hair, teasing the ponytail there to create puffs.

Part 3
In which we create a roll on the side.

Part 4
The completed hairstyle. Lots of puffs, rolls and sculpting, especially on the back and sides.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Past in Review: More Photo Resources

If you're interested in period photographs, do spend some time with the daguerrotypes and photographs of families, couples, houses, military scenes and more offered on these sites:
The images can be so evocative. I caught myself smiling at some of the faces; others I studied in fascination, wondering what lay just outside the bounderies of the photographs.

Photo: Young lady on a bicycle, circa 1890s; Hugh Mangum collection, negative no. 274.

Note: These resources have been added to the Fashion Plate and Photo Resources list.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

1890s Shirtwaist? No, 1980s! About the New Edwardian/Victorian Style

In the last post I showed a shirtwaist I made with sleeves patterned after the giant leg 'o mutton sleeves popular circa 1894-1896. The rest of the sewing detailing I took from an original shirtwaist that I thought dated to the very early 1890s.

Having asked on the Sense and Sensibility board about how to copy the garment, several of the more senior members pointed out that several features on the blouse, especially the horizontal bust darts, show that this blouse dates to the New Edwardian fashion in the 1980s and was handsewn by an admirer of that style, which was popularized by makers such as Ralph Lauren and Laura Ashley. Oops! Ah, so while this blouse is vintage, it is not antique. Collecting clothing is such a learning process!

Here below I describe the shirtwaist and then the Sense and Sensibility members discuss it and give a history of the fashion movement that spurred its creation.

Photo: Edwardian renaissance 1980s shirtwaist

Blouse Construction

The shirtwaist is an interesting garment, so I thought it might be helpful to show that shirtwaist so you can see how it is made.

In the first photo we have the shirtwaist front. The garment is made of a a very soft, sheer windowpane checked cotton. It's trimmed with inexpensive eyelet, of the sort still available today, although the eyelet stitching is tighter than that found now.

In front, the bodice section features a bust dart to either side as well as a pair of darts taken from the bottom. One of the bottom darts was sewed in backwards, which makes me feel better as a seamstress.

Photo: shirtwaist interior

As discussed in the last post, the inside of the garment shows it was very simply sewn. While the main seams are french, so the seams won't look messy when the sheer blouse is worn, the armscye seams are left unfinished. The bottom hem, which you cannot see, if just turned up once and sewn.

The collar is finished nicely, though, for all it's so simple, It appears as if the collar was cut with an inside and outside piece, and the lace trim was sandwiched in the seam, with collar pieces right sides together, and stitched, and then the collar pieces turned out, so that the trim raw edge was hidden inside. Clever, eh?

The sleeves are interesting, too. Note the little tucks that are set into the back side...the sleeves are made of one piece, so the tucks would have been set right after each sleeve piece was cut out, and then the sleeve would have been sewn up.

The cuffs are neatly finished, too.

Here is exterior of a cuff.

Here is the interior of that same cuff.

All in all, it's a graceful little garment!

Dating the Blouse, and A History of the New Edwardian/Victorian Movement, by Sense and Sensibility Board Members

The ladies on Sense and Sensibility kindly assented to my reprinting their comments here, as instruction not only in garment dating but also in features of New Edwardian style.

After Emma Ruth pointed out the bust dart issue, I checked in with the S&S folks again. Acacia wrote:

Natalie, have you considered that this might be a 1970's blouse? It's got that "Gunne Sax" look. I may have owned a very similar blouse at one time. Check if the back button holes appear to be machine stitched. Check to see if there were ever any wire supports in the collar (which might indicate an earlier date).

I wrote back, describing the blouse much as I did above. Then Acacia replied:

It certainly sounds like you have some lovely vintage sewing techniques in this blouse. I wouldn’t place too much thought into the use of selvage. Home sewers do what they like.

I can’t offer any more thoughts on this. It may indeed be from an earlier time, but the New-Edwardian fashion trend during the 1960’s-1970’s produced some very pretty garments that would match your blouse. The back neck closure was common enough during this Edwardian revival. A homemade garment could include everything you’ve described. Another extremely popular designer during this period was Laura Ashley. There were lots of sewing patterns available (from the big companies to some of the smaller independent companies) to make these styles. Folkwear Patterns showed up in the 1970’s as well.

It's a lovely little blouse. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Frances Grimble of La Volta Press wrote:

That is definitely a 1980s blouse. It's the Ralph Lauren/Victorian revival look. Some of the commercial ones were quite fancy and expensive, but there were plenty of home-sewing patterns for that style as well. I made one from a Vogue pattern, with a lot of hand sewing, and another one from hand-embroidered vintage dresser covers. I also have several of the fancy commercial ones. It is very pretty; but if you want to make one like it, the easiest thing to do would be to surf eBay for similar patterns from the 1980s.

Then we chatted a little about the learning process, and Frances undertook to explain the style a bit more. It's fascinating, as she describes a revival of period fashions that from which our current love of period fashion has had such help:

Sure, go ahead and quote. I will add, that if you often want to date garments (or accessories or costume jewelry), one thing you need to do is to become familiar with later styles that copied those garments.

This body is actually closer to an 1880s breakfast-style basque (to be worn in the morning over a skirt) than to an 1890s blouse. Those however usually have princess seams or long front darts rather than the two kinds of darts, and they usually button in front. The sleeves are usually cut in two pieces. These basques are also usually trimmed around the bottom, and often are more highly trimmed in general.

The 1890s style blouses are not as close fitting, and they also do not have the two kinds of darts. Usually they have a front to be worn at least somewhat puffed, with tapes sewn onto the back at the waist to bring round and tie, to keep the puff, and the blouse in general, in place. Usually the part below the waist is so short that, even if you're very short yourself, it's hard to keep the blouse tucked in without not only the ties, but a very tight-waisted skirt on top, and preferably a belt too. Vintage clothing dealers often sew some more fabric onto the bottom.

But the plain body with two kinds of darts, the one-piece sleeve slightly puffed at the shoulder, the sheer material, and in general the features, is absolutely 1980s.

In the 1970s there was a fashion for “Victorian” styled garments, which was to some extent mingled with the also-fashionable “peasant” look. The styles were very loosely derived from historic (and ethnic) models, and cheerfully combined the features of various eras. They included things like empire-waist tunics and long dresses, calf-length cotton skirts with a ruffle at the bottom, and white cotton blouses with nylon lace. Pure cotton fabrics were very fashionable, often of a rather coarse weave and often with little floral prints. Coarse 100% cotton machine-made bobbin lace was trendy and you can still find lots of it for sale on eBay. Popular manufacturers included Gunne Sax and Laura Ashley (neither of which did particularly high-quality construction).

The “Victorian” look gradually became more sophisticated and began to feature higher-quality fabrics and construction. Fashionable garments included blouses in the style you have, usually semi-sheer, cream or white, and decorated with lace in some way; for example a high lace collar and wide cuffs, and/or a sewn-on lace jabot, and/or a lace yoke, or the whole blouse made of lace. Handkerchief linen was widely used for these blouses. Other styles included long, full skirts made of fabrics like velvet, suede, or handkerchief linen; upholstery brocade vests styled more or less like mid-19th-century men’s vests; tailored tweed jackets and long skirts (to wear with the fancy blouses); long khaki cotton front-buttoning “safari” skirts; and fake or real Victorian or Edwardian lingerie worn as outer garments, especially petticoats, camisoles (new ones made of little cotton prints were also popular), and for the more daring, long drawers (worn peeking out from below a petticoat or from the unbuttoned bottom of a safari skirt). Trendy manufacturers included Ralph Lauren and Jessica McClintock (the fancy bridal/evening division of the company that made Gunne Sax). Sewing was regarded primarily as a form of personal expression, and some sewers put a lot of hand sewing and/or embroidery into their creations. Folkwear patterns were especially popular with people who liked the “Victorian” look; but patterns for styles from Ralph Lauren and other nostalgic manufacturers were also widely available in the big pattern catalogs.

Some of the earlier Renaissance and Dickens fair merchandise (it was the same vendors) was very beautiful; some people were doing art and hadn’t figured out they needed to mass produce to make a profit. There were two California designers (one died young soon after hitting the movie-star market, the other is now making astronomically priced couture accessories) who specialized in a kind of Victorian or Edwardian look. They made a very simple style, like a straight camisole, a peasanty empire-waisted dress, or a corset with no boning, and then put umpteen layers of trimming on it. Even more trimming than the real thing; but they were able to make it work. They liked to work in pastels, though the mock-corsets were usually dark.

Some really amazing garments were also sold at the fancy textile art shows. Some were made of hand-woven fabric (alas, the styles of hand-woven garments were usually rather crude) or were knitted, or they were hand-painted silks. I still have an amazing full-length knitted coat with three-dimensional trees worked into it all over, and a tapestry-style knitted sweater with pictures worked in a flat knit.

Suzi Clarke, a costumier in London chimed in:

You take me back to my "best" years!! I still have a drawstring neck full length dress in a Laura Ashley print that I made. I left off the underbust drawstring, and wore a tie belt. It came in extremely handy for a pregnancy dress in that long hot summer of 1977. And I had crushed velvet loon (very loose) pants and fitted jacket , a blouse like Zipzip's, and cotton gingham skirts with ruffles on the hem and a blouse wwith leg o' mutton sleeves. I never stopped wearing long skirts! And there were the Indian muslin tops, and wrap skirts, often in stripes. Oh, lovely memories!!

Nancy wrote:

Yup, this whole thread is making me a little nostalgic, too. I was in high school and college through most of the '70's, and Gunne Sax and Laura Ashley were highly coveted. I still kick myself for letting my mother get rid of a floor length peach-colored gauze Gunne Sax formal I had when I was 20....

Frances wrote back:

What I remember is the 1980s more than the 70s. I used to go into work at publishing houses dressed in Edwardian clothes and be told by management how high-fashion my style was. Which management liked, because editors had to "meet with the public," which basically boiled down to authors--meaning a lot of editors preferred to wear jeans.

Re the blouse, one other point. I used to collect Victorian and Edwardian "whites," and I still have over a hundred white antique blouses. One thing I've never seen is a sheer batiste or lawn in cream or ecru. Embroidered net, yes. Lace, yes. (One Edwardian fashion for the pouch-fronted blouses was to sew strips of coarse bobbin lace together to create a fabric, then cut the blouse out of it, using two or three straight strips of lace sewn together to make the collar and cuffs.) Cream Irish crochet, yes. Opaque medium-weight linens in ecru, yes.

Sheer cream or ecru cottons and linens: No. They were used a lot in the 1980s, and I personally prefer them to bright whites, but the Victorians and Edwardians did not like them much for blouses. I'm not saying they never used them for anything, but they seemed to like the boil-it-then-blue-it look.

Thank you, Sense and Sensibility members for this trip back to one of the chief roots of our love of period dressing.

A note: I only have the online names that the other members have given; otherwise I'd give them more formal mention.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

1890s "Good Witch" Costume: Precis...and the Twins as Kittens!

This year, our boys and I dressed in black and white for Hallowe'en. The twins were Ladybug's kittens, and sported black and white kitty ears and little black tails, and I dressed as a good witch circa 1890s, with black antique skirt and white leg o' mutton sleeve shirtwaist, capped by the obligatory hat.

Photo: The twins and I on Hallowe'en evening. Oh dear, their ears are perfectly perky, but one of my sleeves has quite a droop.

The boys loved their ears and tails, especially the ears. When they see them in the cabinet now, they want us to pull them out so they can be worn again and again.

My camera having been on the fritz during construction of these costumes, only a precis follows.

The Twins' Kitty Ears and Tails
These were so easy to make.

For each ear, I cut a square of black fleece, folded it into a triangle, and stitched it into an ear shape. Then a triangle of white felt was stitched to the front to create the inside of the ear. Finally, I whipstitched the ear to a knit hat, in a slight curve, so as to make the ear rounded in back and hollow in front like a real cat's ear. The curve also helps the ear stand up on the hat.

Each boy's tail is nothing more than a long rectangle of fleece folded lengthwise and stitched into a tube, then turned inside out to hide the seam. To give the fluffy effect, I overcast stitched a length of maribou to both sides, wrapping it around one end so that the end of the tail would be fluffy, too.

The Good Witch Costume: Shirtwaist

The centerpiece of this costume is not so much the hat as it is the shirtwaist.

I used the Sense and Sensibility Beatrix shirtwaist pattern for the bodice, choosing the flat-front version rather than the gathered front. The bodice is straightforward to construct, offering no surprises, and the instructions are comfortingly complete. The bodice part consists merely of a front and two back pieces, and a collar.

Photo: A slightly more close-up view of the shirtwaist.

An Antique Model

All stitching and finishing I modeled on an original shirtwaist from the period in my possession. The shirtwaist is very plain, and very plainly homemade: most seams are French, but the armscye seams are left unfinished, the shirtwaist hem is just turned in once and stitched, the back is closed by only four snaps, stitched without apology right through to the outside of the blouse, the stitching in the hems neat but set more than an eighth of an inch apart. Of the two darts in front, one is set in backwards, a feat that reassures me...not every seamstress in the past was great or always fixed their mistakes!

The Sleeves

The sleeves I drafted from Hunnisett's Period Costume for Stage and Screen 1800-1930, choosing the 1894-1896 gigot sleeve (pattern A, pattern sheet 30). Sleeves during these years attained their greatest size.

The sleeve is gathered all the way around the armscye, as one might expect. Here is where I learned a lesson. I took tiny gathering stitches, as in my original antique shirtwaist model, but...but, but, I only made one row of gathers, not two. Upon stitching the sleeve to the bodice, though I tried to get close to the gathering stitches, I couldn't help but flatten out some of those pretty, tiny gathers. This doesn't happen when I run two rows of matching gathering stitches and then stitch between them. In fact, upon inspecting my original model and another original gathered garment, you can see that the original gathering stitches are left in the garments, and appear just outside the seam; they in effect hold those tiny stroked gathers in place. So my shortcut resulted in so-so, rather large, somewhat uneven gathers so common on modern garments, not the tiny, evenly spaced gathers I aimed for.

The Hunnisett sleeve design has two other interesting features.

Photo: shirtwaist front showing the curve in the sleeves.

First, after the sleeve is seamed up, the sleeve is drawn up from underarm to elbow in four small pleats placed right on the seam. This shapes the sleeve into a curve, making one want to hold one's arms slightly crooked, which I believe was considered a more elegant stance than allowing one's arms to hang down at the sides.

Second, the sleeve is set into the armscye so that the sleeve seam is a little towards the front, not parallel with the bodice side seam. This also curves the sleeve and by extension, the arm in the sleeve.

I drafted the sleeves to their original size, and it proving too hard to estimate their length, given the strange shape, I stitched them to the bodice and tried them on. The wrists proved to be too narrow, so, following my model antique shirtwaist, I opened up the sleeve seam at the wrist for two and a half inches, and hemmed the opening with a narrow 1/4" hem.

Trying on the shirtwaist again, I found the sleeves too long. Grrr. So, I simply turned up the wrists into a cuff, that turned out to look not only pretty, but to suit common styles of the era. However, the sleeve still wrinkles a bit below the elbow, meaning it's still too long.

Next time, I will cut the sleeves shorter.

Finish, and Achieving the Bouffant Sleeve Shape...with a Dip in Sugar Water!

I closed the shirtwaist with snaps, per my original. Nothing of note there.

As many 1890s ensembles featured collars contrasting in color with the rest of the bodice, as well as bows tied behind, I tied a dark ribbon around my neck, bow in back. Had time allowed, I'd have made a proper black collar bow with the usual poufy bow, sans tails.

When I tried on the shirtwaist, the sleeves drooped sadly. How to attain that fluffy-but-stiff pouf? Starch, bien sur.

However, my spray starch didn't cut the mustard, even when applied liberally.

Not being possessed of liquid starch, or possessed of time or energy for making my own with cornstarch (idea courtesy Hank Trent on Elizabeth Stewart Clark's board), I thought to employ the old trick of dipping the shirtwaist into a sugar syrup, then drying and pressing it.

So I mixed about a teacup full of sugar with three or so cups of water, heated it until the sugar dissolved, and commenced to dipping the shirtwaist.

The sugar solution was perfectly clear and acted like a slightly cold water, until I touched it and realized that it left a very thin, sticky film on my hands, and on the shirtwaist.

I dipped only the sleeves and shirt front, then wrung them out and hung the shirtwaist to dry.

Once almost dry, out came the iron and I began to press the shirtwaist.

But oh my! What I learned by trial and error! Never touch an iron to something that's been covered with sugar or it'll stick and leave a film on the iron. Out came the press cloth.

Then press, press, press, as hard as I could. I had to dampen much of the shirtwaist, for the sugar solution had left a faint mark at its edges, and that needed to be blurred away.

Nevertheless, the ironing went well, except without a pressing ham or sleeve board, it was hard to deal with the boufiness of the sleeves...they are all curves so you can't easily iron the sleeve flat, and the armscye is too narrow to allow the sleeve to be pulled over a full-size ironing board.

Once ironed, I put on the shirtwaist, had my mother snap up the back...it's impossible to do alone...and voila!

A note: I used this project as a tester, a prototype for a nicer shirtwaist down the road. It was a good learning experience. I wouldn't try a fancy leg o mutton sleeve without prototyping, since you're dealing with a very three-dimensional sculptural form that yet does not cling to the figure and relies on pleats and gathers and stiffener to achieve its shape.

The Skirt

The skirt is an original antique, made of what looks like a combination of silk and wool, woven with a gorgeous feathery pattern in relief. It is very thick and heavy.

The skirt lacked a waistband when I bought it, and the waist measured more than 50 inches.

It closed with a short placket with underlap and a single large, heavy snap midway down the placket.

If I get a chance, I'll add more photos of the skirt to this post.

Photo: the ensemble from the side back. You can see the back pleats and the tails from the ribbon around the collar.

The skirt is made of one front panel, a gored panel to each side, and two back panels, with the placket set in the center back.

The skirt is completely flatlined in polished cotton, and there is a deep hem facing in stiffer cotton as well. The bottom is finished with brush braid.

I believe the skirt to date to the late 1890s or early 1900s: it's built just like the skirts Kristina Harris describes in the Victorian Sewing Techniques book.

I folded, to the depth of about an inch and a half, the top of the skirt over onto a wide, thick grosgrain ribbon, and stitched all panels except the back ones to the ribbon from the right side.

Then I set each back panel into an inverted box pleat topped by another pleat facing to center back, and hand-stitched them to the ribbon. Setting the back into a few pleats was common in the 1890s, and to make the skirt fit me, required doubled pleats.

I should have used a hook and eye or bar as closure (can't remember which is more correct), but in a hurry, used a snap. Not a good plan. Snaps unsnap under stress.

All stitching was made such that it didn't harm the original, and could be removed easily.

The skirt was worn with a plain, masculine belt, common in plain shirtwaist and skirt ensembles.

That's it. The project took several weeks, but since my sewing stints averaged 15 minutes to 25 minutes in length (that's all I can squeeze in to busy work and family days!), really didn't consume many hours.

Wearing the Ensemble: Notes

The ensemble was suprisingly comfortable. The skirt moved easily, even if it was quite heavy, and the pleats in back and the construction inside ensured it didn't cling around my knees. However, going up and down stairs was a bit tricky because the weight really is a bit to handle, especially when you are carrying a boy and attempting to lift the skirts out of the way.

The shirtwaist's sleeve cut, what with the smallish armscye, and sleeve pulled into a downwards, front-facing curve, do make it hard to raise the arms too high, but then, so do my modern, heavily darted, "feminine fit" blouses, which also untuck annoyingly every time I lift my arms. The most interesting thing about this shirtwaist was that the pouf at the top was comfortable...it was so nice not to be constrained by a tight shoulder! On the other hand, I was rather, well, wide, and that was hard to get used to.

Though the evening was cool, I was toasty: I wore a camisole and corset cover underneath the shirtwaist, and petticoat under the skirt. It all kept the chill away. However, I wouldn't vouch for a sugar "starch" on a hot day: don't you know that the nice stiff sleeves would turn into a sticky, miserable mess! Next time, liquid starch, please.

Monday, October 27, 2008

And Now, the Weather Report

At 5:05 p.m. or so, it snowed.

Very wet snow, or perhaps sleet.

It's October 27.


Photo: a snowflake, in New Mexico, not Kentucky. Courtesy NOAA NWS Forecast Office, Albuquerque, NM.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Weeping Angel...Moves, Lives...

Hallowe'en is almost here, it appears. Did some fiend nip a statue (with aid of a backhoe) from a cemetery and move it to this hall?

Look closely...it's not so...the statue breathes. It's real; it lives.

It's a lady in costume.

The angel left me in wonder, and so I had to see how she was made. The maker was kind enough to detail the process. Her ingenuity is as striking as the final effect.

See Beware the Weeping Angels on the Crafty_tardis Livejournal site.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Black Walnuts: The Harvest and the Cake

It's that time of year: black walnuts are littering the Kentucky Bluegrass. The last few trips out to my in-laws, I've passed patches of roadside where hundreds of nuts lie waiting, and out at the farm, Erma and I have examined their walnut trees. Most are heavy with nuts, and we've started to collect them from the ground. Every once in awhile one of the tots comes up, crying "Ba! Ba!" not for sheep, but for "ball", and presenting me with a walnut, which in its husk is, in fact, shaped very much like a tiny basketball and even has that bumpy surface.

When she was a girl, Erma and her sisters used to lay their finds on the road to their farm so that when the car drove over them, the thick husks, spicy with a green, peppery scent we both love, would break open. This past week we found quite a few husked that way in the little track that leads to the garden; Robert's and Ann's truck must have done the job when they loaded up vegetables. For the rest, I made do by stamping on them with my sneaker.

Photo: our black walnut tree

Walnut-loving, patient Kentuckians all over are gathering up black walnuts and soldiering through the difficult process of extracting the delicious, rich, fragrant meats from the shells. A labor of love it really is, too...the husks stain and the shells are so hard that they're used in commercial abrasives.

Our family is among the group of gatherers, for besides the trees at our in-laws, we can go to the back yard to collect them, because we're blessed with a large, lovely, sinuously shaped tree that bears well most every year.

Harvesting Black Walnuts

This is a multi-step process.

Husk Removal

The nuts come in a yellow-green, thick, hard-but-fleshy husk, and you have to get that off, first. If you leave the husk on so long that it turns brown and rots, some say it will ruin the nut's flavor, although I've not found that.

Complicating factor? The husk has a juice that will stain you, your clothes, even concrete. Folks made dye of it in past years.

Photo: black walnuts hanging on our tree

If you stamp on the nuts with shoes you don't care about on a surface you don't care about, you get the husk off. So stamp away, one nut at a time.

Photo: black walnuts in their yellow-green husks

Cure the Nuts in Their Shells

I've read recently that the nut flavor is improved if you set the nuts aside for a few weeks to cure. Don't pack them too deeply or they may mold; I've read that two or three layers deep in a box is about right.

Note: I've neglected to cure the nuts with no ill effects.

Shell the Nuts

Black walnuts have unbelieveably HARD shells. I've read that soaking them before cracking them helps, but no one in my in-law's family bothers with that, to my knowledge.

Photo: a black walnut in in its famously hard, furrowed shell

A normal nutcracker will not crack a black walnut: you might just crack the cracker. Only commercial operations are able to crack more than one nut at a time, too. Regular folks are left with cracking the nuts one at a time.

Lexington and the surrounding little towns used to boast several places that would husk and maybe shell nuts you brought to them, and even buy them from you, but sadly, fewer people gather the nuts these days.

So, tools of choice in my in-laws' family? Pound the nuts on concrete with a flat iron (the cast-iron type that predate electric irons), or place the iron bottom-up in your lap, place the nut on it, and hit it with a hammer. Pick out the meats with a nut pick.

Photo: getting ready to crack a walnut. The cracker is an old window-sash weight, of cast iron; a fragment of sheet iron is the base on which the nuts are cracked.

My method? Place the nut on a piece of cast iron, take an old cast-iron window-sash weight, and, holding it horizontally, one end in each hand, strike the nut smartly. Then pick out the pieces. The interior of the shell is a tightly packed maze, so it's really hard to get whole meats.

All methods result in a certain amount of nut meat loss, and you invariably introduce bits of shell in with the nuts, but my mother-in-law says that this goes with the territory.

About two pounds of nuts will result in a cup of nut meats; it takes me an hour to crack that many. However, since you only need a cup's worth for a cake, that's okay!

Photo: the walnut, cracked. It took one blow to split the nut, and then a few lighter blows to get the meat free of the shell pieces.

Since the cracked nuts are oily, like regular walnuts, you should use them within a few weeks or so of cracking them, but you can freeze them to get them to last longer. My method is to just crack what you need, and store the rest in the basement out of the reach of squirrels and other pests. Don't put them near the furnace: if the nuts dry out too much they'll be spoiled.

Using Black Walnuts

These nuts will go in about anything that a regular walnut will go in: cakes and pies, and fudge, on top of salads, and so on. Then there's black walnut ice cream, which is hard to find commercially, but oh, so good.

The flavor of this nut is very rich, and it has a spice, a ring, an edge to it that regular walnuts do not, but the edge is not bitter. It's woodsier, maybe. The freshly cracked nuts are fragrant, too, with an elegant scent that reminds me of expensive Austrian cafes as much as it does country cooking. The scent has a similar richness that coffee does...it draws the nose.

Black Walnut Cake

Last Friday afternoon, while the tots played around me, I cracked a cup's worth of nut meats, and then Saturday morning as the sun was coming up, commenced on this cake to take out to my in-laws.

Photo: Black walnut cake

Wouldn't you know I was carrying coals to Newcastle? Saturday was also the Old Union Christian Church auction, and Erma bid on and won a butterscotch pie, cream pull candy, peanut butter rolls, multiple kinds of fudge, crabapple jelly, and grape jelly, all made by the church members. They didn't need a cake.

They got one anyway, and Erma says she loves anything with black walnuts in it, and I comfort myself with the thought that the cake will freeze well.

The recipe

1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup black walnuts, chopped fine
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Combine butter and sugar and beat until smooth. Add beaten egg yolks and mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt and add to creamed mixture, alternately with milk. Add vanilla and walnuts and mix well. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake in greased 9 to 10 inch tube pan at 350 degrees until tests done.

Recipe from Christine Gevedon
In A Taste of Tradition: A Collection of Recipes by Morgan County Sorghum Festival Committee
P.O. Box 214, West Liberty, KY 41472
Cookbooks by Morris Press: 1998.

By "tests done", they mean that a toothpick or tester inserted into the cake center will pull out cleanly. However, I'd watch the cake carefully and test several times...and at the first instant this happens, out it comes. Mine had pulled away from the sides of the pan like most cakes do when done, and was a rich brown, but maybe a little darker than it should have been, and was just a little drier than I'd like.

The result was still delicious, a fairly fine-crumbed cake with a faint vanilla flavor and strong taste of walnut, with the added bonus of small nut chunks for texture and extra flavor.

This recipe makes a sizeable cake. It doesn't need icing; I just dusted a little confectioner's sugar on it, but you might consider soaking it with bourbon over several weeks, for a keeping cake. I am going to try it, because the combination sounds irresistable.

It makes a good tea cake and very nice dessert to follow a fall dinner...the stronger flavors go well with the last of the tomatoes, with squash and pumpkin, with "soup beans" and the first of the fall stews.

Further Reading

Here are a few interesting bits about black walnuts; there's more out there and this was unscientifically gathered, so better resources may exist.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Colors in Fashion 1704-1918

Fashions come in living color, usually...except when black is popular, which, once again, it is this year. Further, color in our clothes has been full of symbolic meaning probably since time began. Think of Madame X and her black clinging gown on pale skin, or how gauche it used to be to wear white after Labor Day, or why bright red on your tie or skirt evokes Valentine's Day or passion.

Popular colors have also been tied to scientific discovery...when aniline dyes appeared in the 1850s, people went nuts for shocking bright colors, which was shocking, shocking! to some eyes used to the gentle tones of dyes made from vegetable sources.

Photo: exhibit cover photo

The Kent State University Museum, Anne Bissonnette, curator, put in an exhibit between 2004 and 2006 that explored color in clothing, and lucky for us, they put much of the exhibit and its commentary online, and have kept it there.

Do have a look at The Right Chemistry: Colors in Fashion 1704-1918. The exhibit takes you through specific colors in turn, such as purple and mauve, and then shows you garments in those colors with some details about them.

Want to read a few nineteenth century views on color in dress?

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Twins at the Farm!

It was the last week in August, a puffy-cloud afternoon, out at Mamaw and Papaw's. Once out in back, the boys trotted with us down to the Concord grapes, which are so sweet and so heavy on the vine this year. They rather liked the taste, but preferred the apples nearby.

Photo: Mamaw and the boys pick grapes.

That tree has borne so many this year that the branches leaned way down towards the ground. They were mostly picked already but Christopher settled down in the shade with a windfall for a long while, while Noah "helped" Mamaw and I gather up other fallen apples, the sound ones, for us to take home. I had several hours of peeling and cooking them into applesauce during the next days...

After awhile we thought we'd inspect the garden, and Noah patted his first pumpkin; it was fat and round! Then, as we wandered around, we heard Papaw come home so it was back towards the house as fast as excited little boys' feet could go.

And finally, those dirty little feet needed a wash, and so they played under the pump awhile.

Photo: Sweet Concord grapes on the vine.

It was a dreamy afternoon, the kind you remember for years.

A few more shots:
Photo: Christopher and his windfall apple.

Photo: apple gathering.

Photo: Under the pump.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An Early 1870s Flounced Bustle: Dress Diary

The Bustle: Essential Underpinning for a Dolly Varden Ensemble

Having Dolly Varden dresses on the brain, I decided to make a Dolly Varden ensemble. One essential component is the bustle. This underpinning gives the all-important extended, poufed back.

Photo: the completed bustle...

Unlike the 1880s bustle, which was an aggressive shelf-like structure, the first bustle era silhouette is a large, soft, bunchy pouf. While you can make a bustle for this era using a small conical hoop plus a separate small bustle tied on top, many bustles were constructed in one piece. The one I am almost finished with is one of these: the pattern is TV 108, the Grand Bustle. Like so many seamstresses who have made up a bustle using this pattern, I found it superb.

Image: TV 108, the Grand Bustle, from Truly Victorian.

The below is a dress diary detailing the construction.
I won't go through each step, because the pattern is so clearly written, but will detail spots where I used specific techniques to get the best result or where you have to watch what you're doing.

Cutting Out

The bustle pattern comes in just a few pieces, well matched and well marked. Make sure you place ALL markings on your pattern; since you will be sewing a curved garment, it would be a pain to put the markings on after you seamed up the garment.

A Note on the Sewing Machine

I used an early 20th century Willcox and Gibbs chain stitch sewing machine, electric. The machine produces a fine, perfectly straight, elastic stitch, and the attachments produce high-quality hems, tucks, ruffles, and so on. Further, the design is so cool: it's such a pretty thing. This machine is nearly mint, and was loaned by my sweet friend Johnny: I love it and have named it Laura, because it's elegant and conservative: the W&G never changed its design much. If it works, why alter it?

Image: sewing seams on the Willcox and Gibbs in my mother's back garden

Stitching Flat-Felled Seams

The first steps are to stitch the front pieces together properly.

I used flat-felled seams on this garment, which show on the exterior, like a pair of jeans. They are strong seams since they're composed of two lines of stitching, and the raw edges are entirely covered so they can never fray. They're also smooth: there's no seam allowance sticking out.

Here's how to make them:

Stitch the seam per normal, right sides together. Unless you want to work with very small seams, which is possible but a tad fiddly, use a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Press seam open.

Trim one seam allowance to a scant 1/4 inch.

Press the edge of the remaining seam allowance inwards just over 1/4 inch. I finger pressed it.

Pin neatly in place...

...and if you're picky like me, baste.

Then topstitch along the edge you just turned in. Voila! The completed seam. If you look carefully, you can see the basting just below the top line of stitching.

Note: I could have used one of the Willcox and Gibbs hemmers to do the felling, but chose to stitch it manually. It's not perfect, but it's pretty straight.

Stitching on the Boning Channels

The next steps involve applying the channels in which the boning will be inserted to the back panel.

The pattern calls for 1-inch single-fold bias tape to be used to create the channels. Like at least one other person who has recently made the bustle, I could only find 7/8-inch bias tape, and used it without a problem.

The pattern directions do not say how much of an allowance to top-stitch the boning on with: I used 1/8 of an inch.

Most of the boning channels are sewn to the outside of the bustle. However, one is sewn inside, and its channel intersects some of the channels outside. Remember to start and stop the stitching on this bone so that it doesn't go over the exterior channels!

Photo: boning channel for bone number 7, on the interior of the bustle. Note how the stitching starts and stops over the stitching for the other boning channel (on the outside of the bustle).

Here's the back panel with its channels:

Adding the Ruffles!

After almost all the boning channels were added, it was time to add the ruffles that fluff out the bustle back. That process was fun!

According to Heather McNaughton of Truly Victorian, there are many ways to sew on the ruffles. Among them:
  • You can sew them down right side to right side. Since only the top ruffle's stitching connecting it to the back panel shows, the rest being hidden by the ruffles just above them.
  • You can sew them wrong side to right side (that means that the ruffles are upside down when you sew them on) and flip them down to hide the join.
The latter is what I did. Because I used a 1/2-inch header at the top of each gathered flounce, and hemmed the edge, the header has body to it, and when the flounce is sewn down, the header, now underneath next to the seam, creates a bit of extra body and lift to the flounce. I like that!

To make the flounces, first I seamed all the strips together to make what seemed like a mile of fabric.

Then, I narrow-hemmed each long edge of the flouncing. I used the Willcox and Gibbs' narrow hemmer. It produces a superb 1/8-inch hem. Look at the pictures of the gathered flounces to see the hem.

Photo: miles of flouncing being hemmed.

Note: when using a hemming attachment, the hemmer will often get stuck at vertical seams where strips are joined. To get over that problem, cut a long, steep nick off the edge of the seam allowance joining the strips. This gets rid of the bumpy join so that the hemmer won't get clogged.

Photo: nick cut from seam allowance of a seam joining two flounce strips.

After that, I used the W&G's "Improved Ruffler" attachment to produce the 2:1 ruffling. Again, that was fun!

Here are the ruffler and its original box:

Here the machine is ruffling. Again, miles of ruffles!

Here is the result. You can see the narrow hem on the inside of the ruffle header:

Then I applied the ruffles to the back panel. To make sure I had enough ruffles, and to make sure they were applied straight, I basted ruffling from the strip on, and then cut the ruffle from the rest of the strip only when I had reached the end of the row that ruffle was to be sewn onto. Then I stitched each ruffle down, the line of stitching being just outside (towards the header edge of the fabric) of the gathering stitches, again to keep the maximum amount of gathering fullness: I didn't want to flatten any ruffling! The long stitches are the hand-sewn basting stitches.

Photo: Ruffle sewn wrong side to right side (that means ruffle is upside down until flipped over) the gathering stitches are the chain stitches; the stitching to the back panel looks like a regular stitch, although it's a chain stitch too, just seen from the front side.

Here's the first row of ruffing, completed. Because the ruffle is fairly tightly gathered, the ruffle header is full, and its position underneath the ruffle really helps the ruffle to stand out:

Sewing Bustle Panels Together

Once the ruffles were applied, it was time to sew the panels together to pull together the bustle structure.

The pattern instructions tell you to "catch" the ruffles into the edges of the side seams. To do that neatly, I basted them first. Plus, catching the entire second-to-lowest ruffle to the side seam would prevent proper positioning of where you need to put the final bone channel in (a later step). So, I pulled the latter half out of the way (it will get hand-whipped to the seam as a finishing touch).

Photo: Basting the second to last ruffle away from the edge that will be seamed. The pencilled lines mark the last ruffle as well as boning channel number 5. Note that had I caught the lower edge of the ruffle in with the seam, I couldn't have sewn the last ruffle on properly.

Because you have all the ruffle layers and boning channel layers and so on at the seam edges when you sew the side seams, it's a good plan to smooth everything into place and pin it so that nothing bunches up when you sew the side seams.

Photo: Stitching one of the side seams. Note how I have the layers of fabric pinned to hold them in place, so they won't creep and get caught in the stitching by mistake.

Here are the front and back of the seamed-up bustle! After these photos were taken, the next steps were to add the final boning channels and to pleat the waist and apply the waistband.

Photo: back of the seamed-up bustle.

Photo: front of the seamed-up bustle. Note that the placket is right at center front.

Adding the Final Boning Channels and Waistband

This was straightforward, with nothing out of the way to worry about.

Adding the Boning

Uh-oh, here is where I had my -- temporary -- Waterloo. As I wrote the folks at Truly Victorian:

Dear folks,

Am so proud of my new bustle, but it's a tad deflated...the bustle, I mean...because the top 4 bones refuse to go in!

Left a 3/4" opening (actually, a little more) per row as directed, but not necessarily at near the outer edge of the rows of boning channels.

So when I go to put in the bones, said bones aren't flexible enough to bend to the degree needed to worm the second end into the channel after the first end is set in: the bone gets into a tight U shape and the fabric gets so tight that nothing goes anywhere. I rather dented bone #1 trying to get it to go in, for example, and have really stressed the bustle stitching there :}

What do I do?

Close up the current openings and open some stitching down near the end of each row? That's rather where the picture has the opening set but at the time, I didn't pay exact attention.


Heather wrote back:

Yep, sew up the hole you have, and make a new one at an end of the chanel. It's the only way to get them in. Actually, you probably don't even need to sew the old one up. The bone won't slip out, just like you can't get it in. So rip a few stitches out on the end, slip the bone in, and stitch it back up again.

I know there is another pattern out there that has you leave a hole in the middle. But that doesn't work, and people have told me about their trials with the idea.

So, that's what I did. Now the bustle is completed (except for a bit of seam finishing, a hand-sewing project), and I am very, very happy with it.

The Completed Bustle

Here's the front of the bustle:

The bustle fabric isn't particularly stretched tight over the hoops, and that's as it should be, says Heather. She says ease is necessary, so that the hoop lines won't be prominent and liable to show through the outer skirt.

Here's a side view:

Here's a back view:

Phew! Now, on to a petticoat...