1940s · Commission · Finished! · Modern Sewing · Pattern · Vintage

The Starella Sisters Make Their Debut


Readers, I’m super excited to share with you my latest commissioned project – pin-up girl dance costumes!

You see, two of my vintage model friends, Sanjna and Pearl, recently formed a vintage dance duo, The Starella Sisters (which is a combination of their last names). They had their debut performance this past weekend at the CD release party for the Jenny Finn Orchestra.The girls did a coordinated dance to the song Chinatown My Chinatown (which you can listen to here) complete with parasols and the Charleston. The venue for this was perfect, The Secret Society, which is located in an old Victorian building and has the feel of a 1920s speakeasy (yes, I was in heaven). British Boyfriend (TM) and I made a date of it, and met a very lovely woman named Tina who told us about her Scottish husband and adorable fluffy cat named Sebastian (Hi, Tina!)



The costumes are an altered version of Butterick 6019, which is one of the patterns by Gertie. I shortened both the wrap skirt length and made the bodice a separate bralette top, per the girls’ request. This project actually involved a number of new sewing techniques for me, including sewing pom-pom trim on (not difficult at all, just something I’ve never done before) and shirring the side back bodice pieces with elastic thread in the bobbin. I’d seen this technique done once before on an episode of The Great British Sewing Bee, so I already knew that I’d have to wind the bobbin by hand (you don’t want this stuff to stretch before it’s sewn!). What I wasn’t prepared for was how much elastic thread this project would use! I used up my entire 11 yard spool of Gutermann elastic thread (yes, it comes on 11 yard spools) and had to re-wind the bobbin 3 or 4 times, which I guess makes sense as you sew lines on the side back pieces 1/4″ apart. The end result was fabulous, though, and really provides a great deal of movement and adjustment, which was perfect for this project.

Don’t worry, I tacked the seams down and clipped the threads!



The fabric is a vibrant magenta brocade with a fire-breathing dragon motif on it. I love how the finished outfits turned out, but this fabric was both difficult and time-consuming to work with as it frayed horribly (in fact, I’m still finding threads all over the apartment!) and I had to use a press cloth any time I needed to iron a seam, as the polyester content meant direct contact with the iron would melt it. I fully lined both garments to both hide the unseemly fraying seams and add durability (I knew the girls would be moving around a lot in them, so I wanted the garments to be able to hold up).

Post performance costume change (I did not make these dresses!)

The Starella Sisters have another performance planned next month for the holidays and they’ve asked me to be their official costume designer (!) so I’ll have another couple commissions in the works to share with you guys. Stay tuned for that!

Commission · Contemporary Pattern · Dress · In-Progress · Modern Sewing · Personal

In-Progress: Going-Away Dress

Readers, my best friend is getting married this summer, and not only do I have the distinct honor of being one of the bridesmaids, but I also will be making her going-away dress! I haven’t done a full dress commission since last year, and I felt that a custom-made dress would be a great gift for her and way more personal than say a toaster. 😉

Anyways, the design we decided on was a bodice with a lace yoke, like my sheer-yoked Macaron (I’m actually using the same pattern), but rather than a pleated skirt, I decided to go with a circle skirt. I finished the mock-up yesterday (using muslin and really cheap Joann’s lace fabric), and she came over today for her fitting.

Here’s the dress pre-fitting:


And afterwards, with her wedding colors (the dress will be blue, with a cream lace yoke):


Not a lot of changes, luckily! The yoke was just a little big, so I pinched out the fullness. I’ll buy the fashion fabric and actual lace fabric this Friday when I go to the Sewing Expo! I’m taking a class on draping, which I’m very excited about.

How about you, readers? Anyone ever make anything for a friend that was going to be a bride? Or anybody taking any fun sewing classes soon?

1850s sewing · Commission · Finished!

A Victorian Travel Bag

Hey there, readers! Apologies for my unintended hiatus. I haven’t really been particularily busy, just felt a bit uninspired to blog. I have all this sewing I need to do (which I’m entirely grateful for, as it’s one of the few things paying the bills at this point), which means that fun projects for me have been put on the back burner.

Anyways, I thought I would share photos of my latest finished commission that I really enjoyed doing. I think I got this one over a year ago from my fake auntie but just finished it yesterday. See, this is what happens when I don’t have deadlines.  😉

The bag is made from black linen and trimmed with cotton ribbon. It’s basically a rectangle that’s been sewn into a tube with two circles attached to the end, so that it looks like a duffle bag.

“Did they even have duffle bags during the Victorian age,” you ask?

Why yes, they did!

In the mid-19th century, linen had few uses and one of them was for traveling purposes. Darker linen (especially in shades of brown and tan) was heavily advocated in the fashion magazines of the time for ladies travel clothing and travel accessories, as it hid dirt very well. And if you’re wondering why linen wasn’t used as much, it has to do with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 (by Eli Whitney), which made cotton more economical to produce, thus increasing the slave trade, thus leading to (although not entirely responsible for) certain political conflicts that reached a boiling point in 1861. Okay, fashion history geekery moment over . . . .

The handles are also made of the ribbon, but two layers of it, and the bag closes with 5 black glass buttons.

And the interior is this neat tan, red, and black repro cotton:

The best part of this whole deal is that I have so many extra materials that I’ll be able to make myself a bag, and I’m planning to make a few extra that will be available for purchase! They’re such a handy thing to have, and a great alternative to a carpetbag.

Oh, also, I went to a friend’s yard sale last week and picked up this chair for my 1850s camping event next weekend!

Isn’t it fabulous!? I’m going to make a seat for it (Daddy is going to cut the plywood for it, I shouldn’t be trusted around a saw) and I’m going to cover it in red and white ticking.

Commission · Contemporary Pattern · Dress · Finished! · Modern Sewing

Commission: The “Wing It On” Dress Knockoff

A happy customer means a happy seamstress!

Hello, everyone! I thought I would share photos of my latest finished project, a commission dress! The dress is part of an exchange that I’m doing with my dear friend, Lauren.* Lauren has her own photography business, and in exchange for her taking some professional photos of me and my sewn garments for my portfolio, I made her a custom dress, which she wore to her graduation party this past weekend!

Love the shoes!

Anyways, the dress is a knock-off of this one from ModCloth. Lauren specially ordered printed cotton poplin fabric from Spoonflower, and I love the black and white together combined with the red nails! 😉

I used Simplicity 2588 as the base, but heavily altered it in order to get the open back (which involved making a waistband for the dress) and made a gathered rather than pleated skirt. Besides the design changes I made myself, the pattern was pretty straightorward except for the neck yoke! I messed it up both on the mock-up and the final one. Suffice it to say, if you ever make this pattern, the instructions should be read very carefully before constructing the yoke!

The Spoonflower fabric came with this neat label, so of course I had to put it in!

Since I don’t have a serger, I used my favorite seam finishing technique of stitching 1/4″ into the seam and then pinking the raw edges.

Speaking of graduation, I feel like I’m in an odd state of limbo since finishing college last week (and thank you everyone for your well wishes on my last post about that!). I’ve moved back home for the time being (and I never really realized how much crap I have!) and am still looking for work (everything that they say about the recession and college grads is true), although I just got a call last week about an interview for a really neat summer job that would involve costumes and history! I’m not going to say anything more than that since I don’t want to jinx it, but please keep your fingers crossed! But for now, I’m just sort of content to nap, sew, and read for fun. Being a bum is quite enjoyable, although I’m sure I’ll get bored of it very quickly. 😉


*Note: All photos of Lauren in the dress are courtesy of Lauren herself, and my sincerest thanks to her for letting me post them here!

1850s · 1850s sewing · Commission

Crafts of the Past Weekend

What I’ll be doing this weekend!

Just a quick little post to let you guys know that I’ve been selected as a “visiting artist” this weekend at Fort Nisqually for their new “Crafts of the Past” program. Basically, I’m getting paid to sit around in period costume, sew, and chat with the public about my sewing. How awesome is that!? Anyways, if you’re gonna be in the Tacoma-region this weekend, come say “hi!” You can read more about the event here. The fort did a really lovely write-up about me, and I’m so tickled by it and humbled by this opporotunity I’ve been presented with.

Also, there are still lots of items available in my Spring Cleaning Blog Sale! All the wool fabric is gone, but there’s a ton of patterns, reenacting and vintage clothing, and other fabrics available.

Alright, have a lovely weekend, everybody!

1850s · Commission · Contemporary Pattern · Modern Sewing

Weekend: dress toile, concert, and dyeing fabric for the first time!

Hope you all had a lovely weekend, readers! I had quite a busy and productive weekend, and I thought I would share some of the highlights with you all!

The red zipper is there because I didn't have a white one that was long enough. Oh, and red and white are Polish flag colors. 😉

 First up is the toile for the ‘Wing it On” dress commission that I’m working on! I used Simplicity 2588 as the base, and except for taking in a little excess at the waist, it fits! I’ll probably do a gathered rather than a pleated skirt on the final version, tho.

After the dress fitting (and subsequent little dinner party I threw together) I headed downtown with some of my closest friends to see Ingrid Michaelson play! Readers, she was amazing live. Incredibly funny, witty, and talented. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any really good photos (our seats were up on the balcony), but luckily somebody on Youtube has kindly uploaded one of her songs from last night, and you can view it here.

Finally, I dyed some fabric for the first time today! I’m working on a collar reproduction for the exhibit that opens this week, and the collar needs to be black, but the vintage tatting that I used was white, so I decided to construct the whole thing in white and then dye it. Anyways, I got the white collar done . . . .

. . . . and then dyed it and it came out dark purple!

Not quite the color I was going for . . .

I used Rit and still have half the package left, so I think I’m going to re-dye it (but probably use more salt this time). Dyeing fabric is an interesting process, made more so when you have OCD tendencies like I do. 😉 I made sure to wear gloves and used the trash-bag-in-the-plastic-tub method (thanks, Poject Runway for that one!), but every time I turned the sink on to add more water to the dye bath (I put the tub in the sink), the black dye water would splatter, and I would get freaked out about it staining the porcelain sink since the sink is part of the apartment I rent, so I had to take off my dye-soaked yellow glove and get a paper towel and blot the splatches away. Anyways, it turns out that powdered Comet is excellent at getting out dye stains from porcelain. 😉

Alright, off to get myself ready for tomorrow before Mad Men comes on! Have a nice evening, everyone!

Commission · Holidays

Happy New Year!

Happy 2012 readers! I realize that we’re 6 days into a new year already, but after flying home from New York this past weekend followed by starting up school again, life has been a bit hectic this past week, and I finally feel that I’m settling back into a routine.

Right, so New York. I had a fabulous time there, seeing the handsome manfriend, even if it was only for a week.

On the boardwalk in Staten Island. Yeah, he's cute . . . .

While we didn’t make it to Mood, we still did fabulous things like visiting Times Square and seeing a Broadway Show (we saw Avenue Q, which I had never heard of before but which I highly, highly recommend! It was hysterical, although *ahem* a bit more for mature audiences, if you catch my drift).

So, what does 2012 hold for me? Lots of sewing, of course! I’m also interning at the living history museum that I volunteer at and am working on an exhibit about women in the fur trade. Oh, and I graduate in June and then get to enter the adult world and try to find a full-time job. Scary!

Wing It On Dress, image from ModCloth

Oh, and since this is a sewing blog, I should probably talk about that. Currently, I’m working on making a repro of a Modcloth dress for a gal that I went to HS with. She does professional photography and in exchange for making her the dress has agreed to take photos of me in my sewing creations for my portfolio. Needless to say, I am so stoked about collaborating in this way with her! Also, I have the ladies tea next month, and I may try to make another late 1850s dress, but we’ll see how that goes. 😉

Anyways, best wishes to you and yours in 2012! Oh, and happy sewing! I can’t wait to see all the fabulous creations that everyone comes up with this year!

1850s · Blogging · Circle skirt sew along · Commission · Finished! · Millinery · Modern Sewing · SSS '11

Getting back on track

My mantra for the past month. I also have it in poster form in my room!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since my last post! Life has been incredibly crazy and hectic as of late, between starting (what I hope to be) my last year of college, financial issues, interpersonal issues, getting ready to apply for grad school, moving into a new place, and not being able to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. Suffice it to say, sewing and crafting and blogging have unfortunately fallen by the wayside, but I hope to get back on track.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate in SSS ’11 as much as I had wanted to or hoped to. I’m still committed, though, to incorporating more of my me-made items into my everyday wardrobe, and with that in mind, I whipped up this gathered skirt last week:

Readers, I am in love. It’s 100% wool, super cozy and warm (especially paired with leggings!) and the best part is it was made from Pendleton wool remnants that I got for under $5. Oh, and I used rectangular construction, so it took me like 4 hours to make it.

I also recently finished the silk comission hood I have been working on. It’s 100% handsewn, and the client wanted wider ties than I had originally created, which is why it took me a bit longer to complete.

I’m hoping to attend 2 more reenactments before the year is over, in which case I’m also hoping to get my wool coat that I’ve been working for ages on done. In addition,  I have several modern wooly items in the works (including hopefully a cute cropped jacket!) now that the weather is starting to turn bitter and chilly. But for now, I’m off to put the finishing touches on my circle skirt! I thought I’d missed the circle skirt party, but fortunately (or, unfortunately) Casey had some technical difficulties, so the deadline has been extended to next week.

Hope you’re having a lovely autumn so far and enjoying one of the best hobbies for this season, sewing. 😉

Commission · In-Progress · Millinery

Quiltin’ Along


I’m halfway through quilting the curtain of a quilted hood I’ve been commissioned to make for the fabulous Auntie B. The exterior is this gorgeous olive green silk taffeta with wool batting sandwhiched between this layer and a bright blue silk lining. After finishing this quilting then I’ll start on the quilting for the back and the crown. Suffice it to say, this is a fabulous project for a commuter student such as myself since it’s so portable. It’s also great for procrastinating on school work while watching fabulous costume dramas. 😉