Showing posts from 2014

1860's Corsets: My First Attempts


Corset making can be a difficult challenge, but with patience and willingness to fail the first few times, an amateur at sewing can make one. My first corset was a quick, poorly done project, using cotton broadcloth, zip tie boning, and hook and eye closure. I actually made it as a bodice for my prom dress; it looked great then, but later I altered it to add the open laced back. After taking it apart to re-make the bodice into a corset, I didn’t finish it properly. The zip ties bent and poked me and it hurt. I’m not sure why the zip ties didn’t work, as they are the same as plastic boning, but maybe I didn’t put enough boning into this corset and expected the existing boning to support too much. The pictures here are of the second corset that I made.

About five years ago, I made this corset with Past Patterns #703 1863 Dayton's Skirt Supporting Corset pattern, altered a bit for the look I wanted. It is made with four layers of cotton duck cloth, something that I would never …

1920 Suffragette Costume (Part 1)

My cousin asked me to make a circa 1920 costume for her volunteer work at the Susan B. Anthony house. This is a great learning experience for me as I am new to sewing for other people. Thanks to my wonderful cousin, who is so patient and helpful, I am learning how to do commissions. It's going slowly since we live pretty far away from each other and I have lots of other things going on in my life, but hopefully it won't be too much longer--I started this project in January (yikes!).

So far, I've completed the blouse and am currently working on a suit coat and skirt. We did a lot of research to decide on the look and what patterns to use. My cousin did a fantastic job choosing patterns. For the blouse, she ordered Past Patterns 400 ( and chose the view without a downturned collar and winged cuffs. I made the blouse in white cotton shirting. Since it is not a closely fitted garment, I did not make a mock-up but rather used my cousin'…

Planning Civil War Uniform Coats

This post is research for a project. I am posting it on my blog because it seemed like a good way to organize and share the information. It contains only research, not anything that I have made. I will probably be editing this post as my planning progresses.

I will be making a civilian-style, commercial, Federal officer's sack coat and a Schuykill arsenal jacket. The sack coat will be a single breasted, five-button (using specialty officer's buttons) officer's coat in wool flannel. It will be lined in cotton flannel. It may need worsted wool trimming, as in the two inspiration photos of the officer with General Custer, but in most photos of junior officers, they don't have that trimming (according to Tom, my friend for whom I will be making the coat). The sack coat will have three outer pockets and an inner breast pocket.

These two sites are sources about original Civil War sack coats:  Info about J.T. Martin contract sack coat

My Wool Petticoat

This red plaid petticoat for Civil War reenacting is very similar to the brown one that I made for my friend ( It is made out of wool fabric with cotton facing and yoke. First, I sewed the large rectangle of wool to a rectangle of cotton about five inches wide. I covered the seam with bias skirt facing, but I wish I hadn’t, because it made the seam very bulky. I gathered the yoke to a waistband that has twill tape ties inserted a few inches into the waistband, making it somewhat adjustable without the added thickness of twill tape running through the whole waistband. This innovation was my own idea, and I’m not sure if it has any historical basis or not. Finally, I sewed cotton facing to the hem, pressed it to the inside, and basted it. I have had the fabric for many years and don’t remember where I got it or how much I might have paid for it. I used the entire piece with none left over. The petticoat is very …

A Cote for a Little Girl

I just finished a medieval cote for my goddaughter. Some aspects of the project did not go well, but it was fun to make and a great learning experience. I learned many years ago that it's important to always see the positive side of any of my craft projects because the failures always help me to do better next time. Some people stop pursuing a hobby because they become too discouraged. However, by trying and failing, and then accepting that failure, one advances one's skills and learns how to do better next time. 
Not only am I fairly new to medieval sewing, but also this is also my first venture into children's clothing. It's so hard to adjust to the tiny size! It matches all the measurements with room to spare, but since I'm sewing with wool and linen instead of stretch-knit cotton, I may not have factored in enough ease. I won't know until I give the clothes to my goddaughter in a couple weeks. I re-made the sleeves because though the first ones measured…

A Medieval Child's Shift

The other day, I was checking my blog overview to see where my views were originating. I discovered that a photo from my blog had made it onto Pinterest: This link leads to my post about inserting gussets on a chemise: At first I felt like someone was appropriating my work, but then I realized that it is actually very flattering and positive that someone thinks my blog is useful and interesting enough to share or bookmark. I never intended it to be a means of reaching out to other tailors/seamstresses; my blog was meant more as a portfolio and a personal reference. However, I am really excited about what it has become and happy that I have readers who appreciate it. Thank you very much! Also, thanks to The Dreamstress for adding a link on the HSF page! I get most of my web traffic from there.

In other news, my latest project is to make some medieval clothing for …

The $500 Pair of Slippers

A few weeks ago, I noticed my dad walking around in his very ratty slippers.
"I think it's time for you to throw those out, Dad," I said. "What are you waiting for, Christmas?"
"Yes," he replied, "Maybe you could make me some!" He even wrapped the toe of a slipper in packaging tape to accentuate the fact that it was falling apart. It was amusing.

I scoffed at the idea, but then started looking for inspiration. I couldn't find any good free patterns, so I decided to try to develop my own crochet pattern for slippers. I am not very skilled at crocheting, but I understand it and don't find it too challenging. I started by crocheting a sole, which I ripped apart and re-started so many times that my mother thought I should throw in the towel. That only made me more determined to succeed. Mom dubbed them the $500 slippers because of how much time I spent working on them. I didn't enjoy the project very much, but I wanted to see if I cou…