Latest Posts

Rate the Dress: a Romantic-era recycle mystery dress

Last weeks blue-grey and white late 1870s dress was one of my favourite kinds of Rate the Dresses: one that sparks lots of interesting discussion, quite strong feelings, and hilarious comparisons (personally, I think anything that can be described as Victorian Dalek fancy dress should automatically be¬†a 10 ūüėČ ). ¬†The feelings, while strong, were very mixed – a solid block of very high ratings, an equally solid block of very low ratings, and a lot people who thought it was, ummm…interesting. ¬†Personally I give it an intellectual 10 and an aesthetic 6, but your ratings evened out at 6.3 out of 10 – I guess the aggregate rating was closer to my aesthetic reaction than my intellectual reaction!

This week we’re rating a dress has done the rounds on pinterest, but where I unfortunately can’t find the original source. ¬†I generally try not to post Rate the Dresses if I can’t credit the collection, but occasionally breaking that rule, and asking for your help in finding the source, is a good way to locate it and make it easier for future searchers to find it.

The only clue I have is that the dress probably comes from a European collection, possibly Czech. ¬†Do you know where it’s from? ¬†(confession: I’ve spent all day on the phone with Applecare and Adobe, fixing issues arising from my hard-drive crash, and I’ve hit the point where I can’t do even the most basic tech thing, so you may find if very easy to figure out where this is from!).

UPDATE:  Many thanks to Daniel for locating the collection!

As there is no source for this dress, I don’t have a lot of information on it, but I can guess a bit by looking at it. ¬†The silhouette and combination of historical and military inspired trims place the dress ca. 1820, but the fabric is not contemporary with the dress. ¬†This appears to be a fantastic example of a 19th century garment made from mid-18th century fabric.

The skirt is cut into panels to create the slight cone shape fashionable in the 1820s, but the wide serpentine stripes of the the fabric were originally intended for a garment that used full widths of rectangular fabric, so the angled panels create an interesting pattern of disappearing stripes.

Personally, I quite like the symmetry of the mannequin being as blank as the dresses background: you cannot rate it on anything but the dress itself.

So how does the dress alone fare?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

TVEO1, 1900s Edwardian corset

Time to be my own hero: adventures in Edwardian corsetmaking

The 1900s ‘Touch of blue’ corset that I made recently was the first 1900s corset that I’ve finished, but it wasn’t the first that I started.

(brace yourself for a long post, full of problems!)

I’ve had the TVE01 Edwardian corset pattern in my stash since shortly after it came out, but hadn’t gotten around to making it up. ¬†Then Lauren of Wearing History made a gorgeous version of it in green brocade back in March 2014, and I fell in love, pulled out my pattern, and immediately started my own version.

I had green on my mind thanks to Lauren’s version, so I picked a silk taffeta in pale spring green, and a midweight¬†herringbone twill cotton for backing and support.

Lauren had mentioned that she must have measured wrong, because hers came out quite small.  So I measured very carefully, and checked the pattern very carefully, and was a little generous in picking my size.

I flat lined everything, sewed everything together, added stunt bones, and  a stunt lacing strip, and tried on the corset.

No dice. ¬†Fully laced there was over 5″ of lacing gap, and none of the seams sat in the right place.

Ack! ¬†What to do? ¬†Lauren solved her fitssue by adding extra panels to the side, but I didn’t feel I had quite enough of a gap for that, and I was really worried about messing up the shape. ¬†So I decided to let out every seam as much as possible. ¬†The seam allowance is only 1/2″, but I could let out every seam 1/8″ on each side (so 1/4 per seam) and there were six seams for each half of the corset that could be let out, giving me an extra 3″ of corset, reducing the gap to a totally acceptable 2″ and a bit. ¬†Plus, with the way corsets fit, once I got the seams in the right place on my body, I might be able to lace a little tighter.

There was gnashing of teeth and muttering, and a LOT of unpicking. ¬†So much unpicking…

Then, back to re-sewing

Which, of course, is when I discovered I was running low on the specific colour of vintage thread I’d picked for this project, and didn’t have any replacement. ¬†Gah!

At this point I’d been working on the corset for four months (it kept getting shoved aside for being annoying), and I was pretty peeved and over it.

So it got shoved in the naughty pile.

Then, Art Deco Weekend 2015, I found more of the right thread colour. ¬†Hooray! ¬†Back on track! ¬†I kept working on the corset, but it was never top priority. ¬†I’d hoped to get them done in time for my Anne of Green Gables in New Plymouth photoshoot¬†but ¬†this (of course) is when I realised that in the gap between starting the corset and getting to boning, I’d used up the boning I had intended for it, and didn’t have anything suitable in stash.


So it went back in the naughty pile, until I finally got around to ordering more of the right boning when I was in the US for Costume College this July/August.

I was so busy after Costume College that I couldn’t work on the corset, but I was determined to get it done before 2016 was over. ¬†The HSF October ‘Heroes’ challenge seamed like a good idea – Lauren is a hero of mine, and the current family history research is centred on a Great-Great Aunt who did some pretty awesome work in 1900.

I got the corset completely ready to bone, all the boning channels sewn on, ready to go, by the end of October. ¬†I had a bit of trouble figuring out the boning channels: there wasn’t space on my pattern for all the channels indicated in the pattern instructions (and by this point, I was far from the smallest size!). ¬†The boning instructions were pretty vague – there were only a couple of sentences, and one small picture of the front boning channels only. ¬†I really would have liked a lot more detail.

But, with lots of help from Norah Waugh, Jean Hunnisett, and, to a lesser extent, Valerie Steel, I figured out a boning placement I was happy with.

And then I¬†realised that I’d been sent the wrong width of boning – 1.5mm instead of 8mm synthetic whalebone. ¬†I’d been testing the channels with a small piece I had left, and there just wasn’t enough to do even two channels!

I swear this corset was cursed.

I could have complained about the wrong width, but it was 4 months after the order, and they had already replaced another part of the order which wasn’t right – covering return shipping and shipping to NZ. ¬†So I would have felt a bit bad about asking for yet another thing, when I should have noticed that multiple parts of the order were¬†off when I first checked and complained. ¬†(so, not sure if I should mention the company – on the one hand they were fantastic about replacing the incorrect item, even covering shipping to NZ when I’d had the original order sent to a US address – on the other hand, they messed up multiple parts of the order).

At this point I was out of time, and had to focus on other projects.  So the corset went BACK into the naughty pile for November.

When my classes finished for the year I decided I was going to be my own hero, and get the¬†corset DONE, even if the channels weren’t right. ¬†So I gritted my teeth, unpicked all my double boning channels, made new bone casings, and re-did all my boning channels.

Then all I needed to do was bind the edges (I used viscose faille ribbon), attach garters, and trim it.

I wore it partly trimmed on the 22 Dec for a photoshoot, but, my hard drive crashed while backing up, destroying some older backups with the images, so they may all be lost.

But here it is fully trimmed:

TVEO1, 1900s Edwardian corset

Many thanks to everyone who weighed in on ribbon choices for the corset. ¬†You’re definitely my heroes for all the support and encouragement you give me!

As you can see, I took most of your advice. ūüėČ ¬†I decided that if mimi pink was good, and French pink was good, using both was even better!


TVEO1, 1900s Edwardian corset

TVEO1, 1900s Edwardian corset

TVEO1, 1900s Edwardian corset


TVEO1, 1900s Edwardian corset

So, the corset was a headache to say the least.  Some of the problems were the pattern, some were my own making, some were just bad luck.  And the end result is far from perfect (for one thing, unpicking every seam and every boning channel did not do the fabric any favours!).  But, it is done, and it works, and it is, despite the flaws, pretty, and I am very pleased with myself!  So I call that a win!

And, two and a half months late or not, I’m counting it for the HSM ’16 Heroes challenge!

What the item is: a 1901-8 corset

The Challenge: #10 Heroes

My Heroes: I struggled with this pattern, because the sizing at the smaller sizes doesn’t work particularly well if you have a small waist and a big ribcage, so I was only able to finish it thanks to Norah Waugh, Jean Hunnisett, and, to a lesser extent, Valerie Steel; three historians whose fantastic research into corsets helped me to decide how to lay out the boning channels and make the sizing work for me.

So this pattern is in honour of those three ladies, and also my great, great aunt, Agnes, whose history is the latest research project among my family geneologists. She left the US to be a missionary in the (then) Ottoman Empire in 1901, and lived there for the next 43 years, founding the first secondary girls school in the OE, surviving two world wars, the end of the OE, and the wrath of various governments because she publicly spoke out against the Armenian Genocide, and the rise of the Nazis. Pretty awesome woman!

Fabric/Materials: 1m of midweight cotton twill, op-shop find ($2), 1m of spring green taffeta ($18, The Fabric Store 40% off sale)

Pattern: Truly Victorian TVE01- 1903 S-Curve Corset

Year: 1901-8

Notions: cotton thread, a busk ($30), grommets ($5), synthetic whalebone ($20), rayon faille ribbon (about $10 worth), and vintage 1930s rayon ribbon ($2).

How historically accurate is it?¬†¬†I overlocked the interior seams. ¬†Overlockers have been around since the 1880s, but I am not aware of their use on corsets in the Edwardian era. ¬†The boning is too wide, and the multiple unpickings and re-sewings aren’t helping. ¬†It’s a little early for rayon (viscose) ribbon, but it doesn’t act too differently to silk.¬†¬†I‚Äôm going to say 60%

Hours to complete: Oh dear….  40+

First worn: For a photoshoot, 22 December (sans a few bows and bits of ribbon).

TVEO1, 1900s Edwardian corset

2016: A Sewing Year in Review

It’s that time of year again: the holidays done and dusted, and time to look back at what I accomplished this year, what I didn’t accomplish.

2016 was a weird year. ¬†It was great on a career level (yay, I launched Scroop Patterns!). ¬†And there were some personal/sew-y highlights (Costume College), but it was also a really horrible year on a personal level (things I don’t talk about here…).

My goal is to make 2017 even better on a career level (so many Scroop Patterns!). ¬†And I’m going to do everything I can to make it a much better year personally, though I don’t have as much control over that by far, and a lot of my personal¬†grief and heartache of 2016 will continue for a while.

It’s also a year that came to an extremely frustrating end: my main working computer crashed catastrophically¬†on the 29th, while¬†I was backing it up: a disaster that appears to have taken both the hard drive, the backup it was doing, and the backup before that, with it (insert much wailing and gnashing of teeth). ¬†I was finally able to take it to the shop today (the joys of public holidays!), but may have lost 10 days of work, including an amazing photoshoot. ¬†So I’m feeling pretty glum as I type this on my backup computer, which is beginning to get a bit slow and grumpy.

But ultimately, this is a blog about sewing, so let’s look at that, and how I did:

2016 in sum:

I sewed at least 84 things (I kinda stopped counting the bibs, stockings, knickers, and singlet camisoles after a while, so there might be a few more).

29 of those were historical: 12 of which were made specifically for the Fortnight in 1916, and 5 of which were specifically for Costume College.  The remaining 12 were almost all for the Historical Sew Fortnightly.

Of the 55 non-historical things, 23 were trial or sample pieces for Scroop Patterns, 16 were bibs, and the other 16 were items for my wardrobe, craft projects, or gifts.

I launched Scroop Patterns, and got three patterns out: The Henrietta Maria, Miramar Dress/Top/Tunic, and Wonder Unders

Top five seven favourites for 2016:

  1. The 1914-15 Cobwebs & Roses evening dress fulfilled a long-term sewing dream, and I felt gorgeous in it.
    A 1914 Cobwebs evening gown,
  2. My Sewing in 1916 blouse, sewn on a hand-crank 1891 vibrating shuttle machine during my Fortnight in 1916
    A 1914-16 blouse sewn on a Singer 27 vibrating shuttle
  3. The Woodwold Henrietta Maria. ¬†Generally by the time I’ve launched a pattern I still love it, but I struggle to be super excited about a garment made from it, because I’ve made half a dozen of them. ¬†This was definitely an exception, and is my most-worn garment of the year.
    The Scroop Henrietta Maria dress with elastic waist
  4. My circular cardigan.  Because how could I not love a thing that does vintage glam and Jedi Knight equally well?
    A circular cardigan with geek twist,
  5. The 1900s Touch of Blue corset was a really frustrating make, but it does mean that I finally have a proper S-bend corset
    Corset reproduction, circa 1905,
  6. The 1910s Little Miss Muffet frock¬†–¬†so fetching!

    Courtesy of Tony McKay Photography and Glory Days Magazine

    Courtesy of Tony McKay Photography and Glory Days Magazine

  7. The Goddess of Small Happinesses Frock.  I just feel so confident in it.
    The Goddess of Small Happinesses frock


With additional shout-outs to the 1913-16 Sunshine & Roses corset (if anything gets a name that’s a nod to Robin McKinley, it’s a sure sign I love it), 1910s black & white corset (so comfortable!), 1920s Autumn Cardigan (wear it all the time!), 1921 Fringe & Poppies ensemble (fancy me liking fringe!), and 1920s not-remotely-1-hour dress & sinamay hat.

The least favourite item of 2015:

  1. The 1910 corset of hubris and irony. ¬†Pay attention to busk length. ¬†It’s important!On the bright side, I could only come up with 1 item for this category!

Biggest Accomplishment:

Launching Scroop Patterns!

Scroop Wonder Unders

 Goals for 2017:

  1. Patterns.  Patterns.  Patterns.  Patterns.  Patterns.  Patterns.  Patterns.  And then some more patterns!  Historical and modern ones!  All the Scroop Patterns!
  2. A really fabulous, high-fashion 1916 day dress
  3. A 1660s gown
  4. A really fabulous 1916 evening dress
  5. More simple, everyday 1910s blouses and skirts.
  6. To re-fit my 1813 Kashmiri dress, and make a spencer or day-sleeves for it
  7. To finally finish the evil beast of the red velvet Elizabethan gown.
  8. To make a totally OTT and frilly 1900s blouse.
  9. To finish at least three other historical UFOs ¬†(1760s punched silk gown? Chine a la br’etch gown? ¬†That stack of 1910s combinations I misplaced halfway through sewing while planning the Fortnight in 1916?, a 1910s petticoat)
  10. Make more basic historical undergarments for lots of periods
  11. Make 1810s stays.

    And….I think I’d better stop while I have any chance of finishing the list!

So, my year didn’t quite go to plan, but I’m still pleased with myself.

What did you accomplish last year that you are really pleased about?  What goals do you have for this year?