Thursday, December 1, 2011

Long time, no see! And, a new project...

Hi All,

Ok, back on the sewing band-wagon! I haven't sewn since I finished costumes for my boyfriend and I for the Star Trek convention. I royally screwed up the back of my mini-dress, to the point where I don't even know how I could have done it according to the pattern. As a result, there is no back pleat, just a seam in the center back below the zipper all the way down to the hem. It doesn't look bad, it's just not *right*. What DOES look bad is the hem; I did this at 2am in a Vegas hotel room, by hand. I may or may not have been drinking. (Ok, ok, I wasn't... but I wish I could use that as my excuse!) I don't really feel like posting pictures of it, since there are enough things I'd go back and change in the future, but for something I made in 2 days, and for my first time working with knit fabrics...It could have gone worse.

Anyway, I've moved and am soon going to have a sewing room. But can I wait for that space to get cleared out (it's currently un-unpacked box storage)? Nope! I'm already planning to make a couple of throw pillows for the couch (that's easy-peasy, I'm just lazy!) and a corset for my perpetually-in-planning Tudor gown.

I have too many options! Do I want to do something that's more 1520's or more 1540's? Do I want to use a russet damask or brown velvet? If I choose brown velvet, do I use the cut velvet or the solid velvet? And don't even get me started on all of my underpinnings, the different options for corsetry still have me in a tizzy.

I am pretty much decided that I will use my russet damask, but conservatively. I have a huge amount of the stuff (I want to say 12 yards?) and if I cut carefully, I'm hoping I can still make an Elizabethan out of it at some point in the future. I'd already decided against a train and that I would make contrasting sleeve linings, so I think this may be feasible, but we'll see. I've also decided to go for a more 1540's silhouette as well, since I think that the damasks do better in the slightly later style, and I'm still planning on basing the gown off of the Simplicity pattern, which lends itself to that shape. I may try to draft my own skirt (again, to save on yardage... I'll have to take a look at what's going on with the Simplicity pattern), and I'll probably end up fiddling with the bodice, but it makes me feel safer to start with something familiar, and a commercial pattern (Simplicity, no less!) certainly fits the bill.

As for the kirtle/corset/pair of bodies debate... Well, I have decided not to use Simplicity's corset pattern, since corsets from commercial patterns tend to be a nightmare. At least with the gown bodice, I'll have my corseted measurements to go off of, but they never do a good job drafting patterns that squish you in the right ways and places. Besides, having a custom-fitted corset is kind of important for comfort. So, I'm drafting my own, with the help of numerous online tutorials and the ubiquitous Elizabethan Corset Pattern Generator. I still don't know what to do about the boning, though. Do I stiffen it aggressively with some sort of buckram or pasted cloth? Or bone it with flat steel for a rigid, unrelenting line? I am thinking of using cable ties or something with a bit more give, since I tend to prefer the paintings where a bit of swell is visible in the general breast area. It looks more natural to me, and I feel like my eye always reads the perfectly conical torsos in paintings as either a liberty taken by the artist, or someone wearing their most unforgiving Sunday Best to be painted in, rather than something they could actually have a good time in. I've also always been partial to Holbein's portraits, and most of his show a bit of curve where the bosom is. AND (as if I needed another justification...), I think it will be more comfortable. As a bosomy girl, I don't think that something that flattens my breasts to roughly the same measurement as my ribcage could possibly be comfortable, nor do I think it will work very well. The ladies would probably just migrate south-wards and look and feel rather silly. Therefore, I am planning on building a bit of a backwards S-curve into the danged thing. This doesn't seem out of line to me; a couple of portraits show what appears to be a very very slight curve in this direction. Almost all of the Holbein sketches I've stumbled across that show women in profile or 3/4 tend to show a bit of this action happening in the bodice line.  Like these:

Thank you, Holbein! It's certainly not pronounced, but it's just enough to make things a bit more comfortable. I'm also planning on doing boned tabs, front lacing (possibly back as well!), and straps, though I haven't decided if I want to do Effigy Corset style straps or if I want to have a corset that is basically strapless and then lace on straps, in case I decide to use this corset with a variety of necklines in the future. I am rather inclined to make this as versatile as possible, even if it comes out less historically documentable. Obviously, this was never high on the list, since I'm considering using materials like cable ties. My goal is to have a garment that works, is practical, and has a period feel to it, whether or not it is as period as current scholarly research allows.

So, for now, I am still busy scouring the web for tips, tricks, and research as I move towards drafting a pattern and trying it out. Wish me luck!