Monday, February 20, 2012

Bad Habit + quick office special

A quickly sketched Office Special. Yeah, I still do those occasionally.
I’m sewing. Hand-sewing. The very tip of my index finger and the side of my thumb are sore. I need a little leather cuff. ::heh heh:: The fabric is a linen/cotton blend that I have been fighting with months upon months, trying to get it to dye to the colour I want. I want a nice vibrant, deep red, and it kept coming out as reddish eggplant. I’d use colour remover, and instead of being returned to white/ivory, it was left a slate blue. I re-dyed it and it came out exactly the same weird muted red.

FINALLY, two mad scientist friends of mine told me of their experience hunched over a hot stove and pot of boiling dye, pouring in their secret potions, stirring in unknown ingredients in hopes of achieving the elusive ‘Turkey Red’ (a bluish-red of varying tones) desired by regency gown-makers. Ultimately, their experimentation culminated in their desired colour and they achieved it using a huge cooking pot they’ve consigned solely for dyeing, a bottle of vinegar, and unknown amount of salt, and about an hour of a half of vigorous boiling in whatever desired colour.

Mind you I had EIGHT yards of fabric to dye. And I do not own a huge pot. So I bribed these alchemists with a packet of my newly bought sugar pearls to help me with my indignant, obstinate, stubborn piece of fabric. They agreed. So after work I zipped to Nora’s nearby house and the task began.

Double double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble...
First Nora prepared the dye. She somehow knew the right amount of water, because none of it overflowed when she put the fabric in there. She put in the dye, whatever blend of other ingredients, I’m pretty sure she put salt in, and I know she put vinegar in it too, because she made me buy some and bring it. She got that heated up and it was time to do the fabric.

Nora enjoys her waffle.
I am still completely bewildered as to how Nora fit eight yards of fairly heavy linen into a single pot. It was like Hermione’s bottomless carpet-bag. She just started with one end, and with a kitchen utensil, she pushed it into the water, yard by yard until all eight yards were inexplicably crammed into the pot. It was funny how confident she was she could do it too... I’m like “There’s eight yards, Nora. That’s a lot of fabric!” and she’s like “I’ll get it in there,” with a smug nod and a purse of the lips. I doubted her, but god help me, she did it. Unbelievable. No dye water overflowed either. The whole thing was perplexing indeed. Then she set this thing to boil. She also took time in this madness to mix up a batch of Belgian waffles from which the three of us partook (and Nora’s husband who sort of floated downstairs when the aroma of caramelizing sugar rose up into the second floor) while the fabric ‘cooked’. I think the fabric boiled with occasional stirring for about an hour and half, maybe more, but I lost track of time gossiping, eating pasta and cheese of the most decadent and delicious form, and being obnoxious and salivating over Nora’s collection of costume books. I believe her cat, Eliza-Jane—a creature that is fabled to have clawed its way from the event-horizon of hell (which I am not so sure about since I found her sweet and cute, but you never know. Evil disguises itself well), would have flayed me if I’d tried to make off with any of her books—so that was not an option.

Too dark to tell at this point.
The fabric can be deceiving, because a number of times I’d dyed it, and when it was wet it’s exactly the colour I wanted, but when I dried it, it went to that weird blah red. When it was done boiling she hucked it into her washer, and then into the dryer, and between the two, I was dubious about how it was going to turn out dry. But when she pulled it out of the dryer, it was the dark, vibrant red I wanted. Mind you, there are some lighter spots, but I can work around that—there’s enough yardage.

Final colour. A lot more vibrant than the blah-red it was before.
So this weekend the work began to figure out the shape and look of my Regency riding habit. The bodice jacket is the most tailored piece; the rest is easy, so I used up all of my remaining muslin making mockups. It took three of them to get the right shape I wanted.

The problem with a modern dress form is the position of the breasts. The regency silhouette requires your girls to be lifted up above the chest’s empire line. Draping a regency garment, a tailored one, is a challenge when your dress form is shaped for a modern woman. It’s easy when you’re making ruched, drawstring items. It was frustrating trying to ‘predict’ the shape of my body without being able to drape it on myself wearing my regency stays. I’m no Project Runway contestant... I have questionable sewing skills at best, the only advantage I have as a seamstress is that I’m the kind of person who will just try something, and do it, even if I’m doing it wrong. I’ll experiment, and just run with whatever comes to my mind. That’s why whenever someone tells me my costume is nice, I think they’re being insincere, or if they’re genuine, I tell them not to look inside—because *I* know how slipshod it is.

I digress... at length, I figured it out, although I’m a bit annoyed by a rather abrupt seam, which thankfully, I can cover with buttons. Here’s a sketch of what I’m aiming for:

A hastily drawn facsimile of what I have planned.
My design is a blend of several extants, fashion-plates that I like. I like to look at images, but I am not the kind of person to copy things—except perhaps one day I’d like successfuly make a copy of the Danish white gown I love so.

This is possibly my favourite extant gown
on earth.

But on the most part, I make what appeals to me, and what is best suited for my body (which is still changing). I figure that ladies in the Regency were inventive and imaginative like people are today, and I would rather do something original to me than just not use my imagination and just mimic things that already exist. Boring.

The buttons are somewhat modeled off the Kyoto Institute’s navy riding habit—I also like the pointed front, but I like a shorter bodice and a narrow crew collar with no lapels. I love the shape of the back from Janet Arnold's habit, but what I'm making is not exact.  I want something simple and non-froofy—with as little fuss and muss on the neckline so my already large girls aren’t further enhanced by lapels and collars. I will also place some loops and fasteners on the skirts and waist so I can bustle the skirts rather than tie them up inside. I want to have the overly long skirts because I fully intend to ride in this habit—and I still want to be able to use it as a walking dress/travel dress.

So I finally bit the bullet and cut linen on Saturday night. I decided to use the last working mockup as lining, so it will be lined in black cotton; that was machine stitched (with white thread, good Lord), but it’s all inside so who cares? I layered some duck into the small crew collar, and I may add some to the front panels for a little structure too, we’ll see. It was hard to sew through those three layers. I may cover the crew collar in black silk velvet but I’m still on the fence about that. We’ll see.

I am not posting any photos until it’s done. Sorry. :D


AnonaMiss said...

The white Danish gown is actually a rather easy sew, I'm sure you can pull it off. Plus it's actually flattering for those of us with larger busts! I made a green version but altered it to be drop front with some help from your tutorial.

Hungarican Chick said...

Thanks AnonaMiss, I am pretty sure I can handle the sewing bit... after my ruched gown, with all the pleating on the back, I am pretty sure I can tackle that part. But what I want is the embroidery and fabric. It's muslin made from plant fibers....

Hungarican Chick said...

Thanks AnonaMiss, I am pretty sure I can handle the sewing bit... after my ruched gown, with all the pleating on the back, I am pretty sure I can tackle that part. But what I want is the embroidery and fabric. It's muslin made from plant fibers....


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