Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Wandering Milk Bottle

What happened to Noah's toy when it wandered away...the episode left him scratching his head. Watch!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Twins Play with Their Cereal

Noah kept grabbing at the bowl of cereal while I was trying to get spoonfuls of it to feed to him. This happened week after week, until last week I had a brain-wave. If he wanted to get his hands in the cereal, let him!

So glop! went large adult-size spoonfuls of thick rice cereal onto their high-chair trays. And splat! went Noah's hands into the mushy pile. And smear! went the cereal everywhere. Later on in the experiment both hands went into his mouth, and he understood that yes! this was his everyday food and he could eat it on his own.

Christopher, true to nature, was more suspicious. He tested and examined fistfuls of cereal, and never did more than nibble it.

By the end of last week the boys had experimented with cereal three times, and bathtime each night was somewhat extended, as cereal went into ears, up noses, down necks, and dried into the hair. Yikes!

So here they are, experimenting:

1909 Edwardian "Beatrix" Plaid Wool Skirt Dress Diary

My goodness, I started this skirt November 30th, but finally it's wearable. Am quite happy with it...the drape is lovely and it's fun to wear. It's made of a pretty worsted wool plaid in a soft green with red and yellow accents and blue undertones.

I chose the trained version of Jennie Chancey's Sense and Sensibility Beatrix pattern, and also opted for the boned high waist.

The skirt is hemmed as close to the length of similar examples shown in a 1910 Ladies Home Journal (thank you, Carol!), where the illustration of a nice suit shows the model's shoe tips just peeking out in front, and a light train in back. I am wearing shoes with a 1.5 inch Louis heel, shoes of a type as close as I can get to 1909 in my (midget) price range.

Here is another picture:

The skirt lovely to walk in: it swishes quietly and romantically. I have a double-flounced petticoat on underneath that comes to the shoe tops. It keeps the skirt from wrapping around the legs, and the train also helps when I walk. However, it's so true that you must lift your skirts to climb stairs or step outside, and I found that the white petticoat would peep out when I lifted the skirt. It would be nice to have a skirt lifter to attach a belt so that my hands would be free.

I plan to remove the hem and replace it with a facing. Ideally, I'd like the front to have a 3" facing, graduating to a 5" facing in back. This helps the skirt drape and move well, according to contemporary sources. Right now, since there is a train, my hem varies too much and is actually widest at the sides.

For a 1908 article about this type of skirt, its construction, and what to wear underneath it, please see "Sewing Gored Skirts" at

For a 1908 article on how to walk and hold such a skirt -- with photos! -- see "What to Do with a Long Skirt" at

The Waist Facing Construction

I love the boned waist. It's made with a facing, and the bones are attached to the seams under it. The result is so nicely low-bulk!

As a reminder, the original instructions are for a regular waistband, but Jennie says that to create the high waist of the original skirt, one can add two inches to the top of each pattern piece, add bones, and use a facing instead of a waistband. So that's what I did...

I added the two inches to each pattern piece.

After stitching all the seams and then binding them, I prepared the facing. After cutting a 2-inch wide strip (plus enough for hems and seam allowance) an inch longer than the waist circumference, I turned under one long side and both short sides and stitched them to form hems. Then I placed the unhemmed long edge against the top of the skirt, right sides together and with the ends at the placket opening, and stitched.

Then I added the bones. I placed a 2-inch bone (the plastic kind that comes encased in bias tape, in this case black bias tape) on each seam, placing it just below the facing seam, and catch-stitched it to the seam binding.

Note: I made the seam binding on all the seams all face the back of the skirt, excepting the two closest to the placket, which I faced away from the placket.

Then I turned the facing to the inside of the skirt and hemmed it down, trying to take stitches that caught the wool but didn't show at all on the right side of the skirt. At the placket edges, had to angle things a bit.

The results:

Another note: the seam binding doesn't match on different seams and some seams have two different kinds on it. That's me being thrifty: I used what I had :}

The Pleats: Construction

The placket is set into a box pleat, with the right inside corner (as you're looking at the skirt) slashed and bound with bias tape to create the actual placket. The pleat is stitched down for about four inches on each side to control gapping.

Then there are two regular pleats, each facing towards the placket, to the right and left of the placket, to arrange the fabric in the back panels smoothly. As I lose more baby weight I will deepen these pleats. One is a little deeper than the other as it is...caused, I think, by the way I did the placket (I eyeballed everything rather than measuring it.) I stitched these pleats down a bit as well: you can see that on one side I've only basted that part in place (still have some work to do!)

The results:

Plus, the original May Manton 1909 pattern Jennie drew on for inspiration looks like one for a corselet skirt. These were very high waisted indeed. The Nancy Bradfield Costume in Detail book has a picture of a woman whose corselet skirt goes almost to under her chest. This was the Edwardian version of the Empire look. So am considering adding another inch or two in height to the waist.

Another note: besides the petticoat, I am wearing an original Edwardian back-buttoning waist of batiste, embroidered, tucked, and embellished with lace insertion and trim. It is very, very short-waisted, so much so that it must have been worn with a corselet skirt, as it almost refuses to tuck in at this height. The waist is a treasured possession I only wear for special occasions :} Under this is a corset cover drafted from Frances' Grimble's The Edwardian Modiste, and an underbust, longline (to mid-hip) boned girdle, the closest thing I have to the late Edwardian tubular corset; the fit is clinging but not overtight.

An Internal Hidden Belt

A final note: Emma Ruth from Sense and Sensibility (thank you!) had this to add about the skirt construction, for the next time around:

This is random and late, but it might be possibly helpful to anyone making a skirt in future.

Those high-waisted skirts weren't designed to hover up there by magic! There was an easy way to keep them up: a hidden inside belt.

The bottom edge of the belt sits at the natural waistline, and it has darts to keep it in place on the figure. The width of the belting is the same as the "extra" height of the skirt. The skirt gets sewn to the belt at their top edges only. The belt fastens with it's own hooks and eyes separate from the skirt fastening. Sometimes they're boned, but not always. All the belting I've seen on originals looks exactly like modern petersham ribbon only it's cotton or silk.

I am not surprised that a pattern envelope wouldn't have belt instructions written on it, or even would tell you that you should use one; there would have been no reason to mention it. It was such a universal construction method that anyone who owned a skirt with a raised waistline would have known about it as a matter of course. There were detailed instructions in most sewing manuals for making them from belting bought by the yard, and some books say they could also be bought ready-made with your other sewing notions.

Here are some period sewing lessons that show how to make a belt and install it:

On the Vintage site:

from American Dressmaking Step by Step (1917): (Lessons 185 and 186)

from: Mrs. Chalmers 'Lesson on the New Circular Skirt (The Delineator, 1915):

from Tailored Skirts (1916):

from Tight Linings and Boning (1922):

On the Cornell University HEARTH site:

from The Dressmaker (Butterick, 1911 and 1916);cc=hearth;sid=6c91490d4efb364d97665c932dfa317f;rgn=full%20text;idno=4216145;view=image;seq=0003
( go to page 110)

from Dressmaking: A Manual for Schools and Colleges (1917):;cc=hearth;sid=4f511d38909911a653c22c5a93658ff8;rgn=full%20text;idno=4216153;view=image;seq=0005
(pages 387 and 388)

from Department Store Merchandise Manuals: The Notions Department (1917):;cc=hearth;sid=009afcdef49223300574fc030b975cac;rgn=full%20text;idno=4219106;view=image;seq=0009
(go to page 81 for a whole chapter on belting)

from The Dress You Wear and How to Make It (1918):;cc=hearth;sid=efd75abf16bbfd5e52c50b67eda35a89;rgn=full%20text;idno=4400577;view=image;seq=0009
(pages 129-132)

After this, several of us traded posts. I've copied down bits of them here.

Celeste and I were confused about how to use the belting. So,
[Emma wrote] "I don't know when the idea was first thought up, so don't trust me. It seems to me that it starts showing up in books at the same time that waistlines started to rise, which would be right around 1910.

I don't know where you can buy belting new, but it's possible to find something similar enough to replace it. It's a wide cotton ribbon or tape. It looks just like thick grosgrain ribbon or the petersham ribbon sold for upholstery. If you intend to bone it, it could be cut from strong fabric (like you'd use for a corset) instead. I have found rolls of old belting in various widths at flea markets and estate sales, mixed in with other old sewing notions.

I think the main reason it says to sew the belt to the skirt is to give a nice smooth line. Also, some belting arrangements are the way they are simply because they are designed to be done on the sewing machine. Other methods can only be done by hand and are therefore very labor-intensive.

I'm not sure if I can picture exactly what you mean, as there are several different ways of sewing belting on, so I'll take a guess. If you look at the instructions with their tiny and unhelpful pictures, the whole concept appears more complicated than it is. Part of the point of the belt is that all the bulky edges and darts and seam allowances are on the inside of the belt where they won't look lumpy; the only layer outside the belt is the skirt. Only the very top edge of the skirt is attached to the belt, and it flows down loose over the smooth outside of the belt. Obviously you then end up with the raw edge of the skirt top on the inside of the belt, and then you do have to cover it with a narrow thin facing, tape or bias binding. But that facing isn't sewn to the skirt itself, only to the inside of the belt.

Say you're making a skirt that is fitted all around. You could face the top edge, but you don't have to if you're using an inside belt. The belt is a facing of a sort, only it is not sewn to the skirt at the lower edge. If you faced the top of the skirt first, you'd basically have two facings, one behind the other, which would be needlessly bulky and the bottom edge line of the skirt facing might show on the right side. That's the the only problem I can think of you might run into."

Then came a discussion about petersham and grosgrain and today's webbing. Petersham is rather like grosgrain but picoted, and shapes to the waist. Grosgrain will not shape. Today's webbing is too thick to be darted like the old books talk about. Suzi, a well-known costumer, warned us against using it and trying to pleat it.

So I did some Googling about petersham and came up with "
Oh, thank heaven for Google Books! I Googled "petersham" and "darts" and what do you know, one of Sandra Betzina's sewing books came up with a sidebar all about petersham and how it bends to the waist! Please see
The Sewing Place (online) carries it and it comes up to 1 3/4 inches wide.

And Emma wrote back "Waistband webbing is definitely going to be too thick. Old belting is thin yet firmly woven, thin enough that you can put darts into it easily and without bulk. It's essentially a cotton grosgrain ribbon or tape, about the same thickness as a modern grosgrain ribbon or cotton twill tape. The only difference is that it's wider."

Since this conversation I've come upon some more information about belting:
  • See Katherine's Dress Site (aka Koshka-the-cat) and her illustrated article of the construction of a teens-era pleated skirt, using belting! The belting is simplicity itself to put together, although I would not use curtain tape for the belting :} What I didn't understand in her article was the placket. Anyhow, see "A Nineteen-teens Pleated Skirt" at