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Preview: 18th Century Baby

18th Century Baby

Updated: 2018-01-20T01:07:29.261-08:00


No Leave For Me


Well my leave was not approved and I will not have another opportunity to apply for leave until April & May now. So no sewing for a while still. I'm only getting single and double days off in which I need to clean my apartment and set everything right before I go away again.

I may get a promotion at work, I'd rather have leave though.

The Career Change Has Begun


I've been working on a career change for a while now except I always knew this one was going to take some time to germinate. My long term desire is to be a full time writer of fantasy fiction. And I'm one step closer to that dream. I've finished a manuscript and it has been accepted for representation by a literary agent. Now don't get all excited because that doesn't mean it will be published. But it's a lot closer to being published than before.

I'm onto my second novel now. I have this wonderful idea (well of course I think it's wonderful) and my characters are developing nicely. The sad news is that all of this creativity in print and a full time job means I rarely get time to think about sewing these days.

I miss my sewing adventures a great deal and hopefully the approval of some leave in Feb this year will see me creating a new corset or something similar. I've still got those hat patterns and all that silk and a myriad of ideas for pretty, pretty things. Not to mention pounds of red wool which really needs to find it's way into a lovely coat for winter which will be upon me all too soon.

Sometimes things just suck


Well wouldn't you know it, another 2 months have passed and I'm not here to post about a sewing project. On Christmas eve this year I said goodbye to my last surviving grandparent. She was 91.
I'm back to work tomorrow and it hardly feels like another year has passed. If there is one thing I have taken away from the funeral it's not to just watch the world slip by, we are not here forever.

Yes I'm Still Alive


Being back at work always makes me feel as if I have zero time for anything except work. Before I know it another month has slipped by. So I've been terrible and haven't even touched a scrap of fabric since my last break. Being away from home so much always puts other things in my mind when I get home. Like cuddling kitties and doing my washing. Not half as exciting as making corsets but I'll find some balance soon.

Back To Work, tomorrow


As much as I've enjoyed 5 straight weeks of sitting on my butt and enjoying myself all good things...

How ironic that I go back to work on a weekend. Seriously though I'm not crying about this because to be honest I've missed the buzz. The rush of things, the meet several hundred people a day and yes even the whingers that sometimes find their way into my experience. I guess paradise loses all meaning without the pain that precedes it.

I've also decided to start working on my next career change, since all careers have expiry dates on them. Mine usually last between 2-5 years before I have to do something new. Now's as good a time as any to think about the next step.

Getting the bug...again


A time away from sewing is always great for me. But I can feel a new pair of stays coming on in the next day or so. Just a few details to sort out in my mind first.

My Perfume Fantasy


I haven't been sewing for the past few days. I've been taking a well deserved break. When I get interested in something I tend to do it to the exclusion of all else then I have to walk away from it for a little while once I'm done. If I don't, I end up hating my passion. So sewing is off the cards until at least the end of this week. In it's place though I've been going sick on perfumery. Not creating it, just buying it. Which is much, much more fun for me. I have for the past year since I've been creating body creme's wishing for someone, skilled in perfumery, to make scents I could put in them. I've been getting by with mixing my own little stash of essential oils but have not succeeded in creating anything I'd call a "scent". More just vague hints of pleasantness. I'm a big believer in paying for the skill of someone who can do it better than you in some things. Perfume definately falls into that category for me. So on my wishlist was a large array of masterfully blended oils I could put into my cremes and enjoy. They had to be natural, they must be beautiful and they must be elegant. Luckily Isis came along and dropped a little crumb on the Historical Costuming Board. The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab link. Not only do they fit the bill for my cremes (I do not sell my cremes, they are for me alone) but they might also have something I could enjoy wearing as an actual perfume. It's been a year since my gifted bottle of Jadore went sour and I haven't been inspired to buy anything else since. So I've spent countless hours reading their fan forum and getting a feel for scents I might enjoy and at length ordered seven samples from my family of favourite scents. But I also wanted something a little 18th C or at least my imaginings of 18th C perfumes. Something that evoked formal rose gardens, herbal drawer sachets, floral toilette waters and just a hint of exotic spices. Here are my choices....Rapture - a classic floral oriental perfume. Light soft florals combine with musk. Similar to my floral choices in commercial perfumes. The Caterpillar - this appeals to my sense of humour. I kind of like the idea of a perfume named after an opium smoking grub. Besides it's supposedly a greener version of rapture. So still very much a floral scent with a hint of earthiness. If I smell hippy though, this one will hit the bin. The Marquis De Merteuil - well honestly I'd be an idiot not to order a perfume created on an 18th century, fictional, aristocrat now wouldn't I? One has to at least try on that shoe to see if it fits. Apparently peaches and flowers with a sting in the tail. A femme fatale scent. Queen Mab - I truly believe that no perfume experience can be complete without a touch of faery. A dark floral and otherwordly undertones. Nothing to do with 18th C but then I'm hoping for a scentual trip to the summer country with this one. Kubla Khan - despite never having found a pure oriental scent I can wear I couldn't resist the opportunity to at least try. I always love the way they smell on other people. This one is apparently warm with floral overtones so here goes nothing. Lyonesse - having already ordered up enough flower gardens to drown all of europe I decided to take a trip somwhere else with this one. A hint of sea salt, warm summery glow and about a hundred other things I can't describe. This is a favourite scent on that site which means I will either love it too or completely hate it. Death On A Pale Horse - I can't even imagine a magazine ad for this one. Despite it's name though, the notes in it are decidedly less ominous. More of a mossy aquatic which people either love or hate. Since I love aquatics I had to try it and part of me really wants to love it to pieces. I mean can you imagine anything more cool than telling people your lovely perfume is the Grim Reaper...?Now the hard part. I have to wait about a month for them to arrive. Apparently this perfumery i[...]

Recipe For Soft Skin


One of my other hobbies includes creating my own cosmetics from scratch. Partly its a frugality thing because you can make a huge jar of cream for cents. And partly it's a I want to know what I'm putting on my skin thing. So here is a basic body lotion recipe for you to enjoy. It's cheap to make, unscented and you can add whatever you want to it. Even zinc oxide if you want to use it as a sunscreen. I find it soaks into my skin very quickly and use it over my whole body after showering. If you live in a hot climate this recipe will be more liquid than solid. In cold weather it will become a light creme.Ingredients - makes approx 100gms of body creamQuantities listed are approximate (for shopping purposes) as I don't use very scientific measuring methods but still seem to have consistent results.80mls Sweet Almond Oil - obtainable from any health food store40mls Virgin Coconut Oil - should have a strong coconut scent otherwise it's been bleached and processed. Best to buy it from a good health food store as the cheap stuff in Asian food stores has been processed. Of course if you hate the smell of coconut oil then use a processed one by all means. It still behaves the same way in the creme.50gms Unprocessed Bees Wax - should be a deep yellow colour and smell of honey100mls Floral Hydrosol - don't pay a fortune for this in a cosmetics store, head to a middle eastern food store and buy it there for next to nothing. Be sure to check the label, it should say pure distilled floral water. Otherwise it's a mix of tap water and artificial essence. I buy mine from my local Supermarket and use Cortas brand. It's pure floral water and costs about $4 per bottle.Vegetable based emulsifying wax - this is a specialty item and you'll need to buy it from a cosmetics supplier. Be sure to purchase the more expensive olive-derived version rather than the cheaper stuff. It does make a difference and a small amount lasts forever. You'll only need about half a teaspoon of this for a big tub of creme so buy it in as small a quantity as you can find. It's possible to make a creme using beeswax and borax. But from what I've heard it's difficult to get the quantities right. You also have to buy specially pure borax, the supermarket variety shouldn't be used because of chemical impurities. And it just seems like a lot of hassle to me. Emulsifying wax is very easy to use by comparison and hard to make a mistake with.ToolsKettle for boiling waterSome plastic mixing bowls and containers for storing your creme in. I use small tupperware, works just fine for storage.Teaspoon and a desertspoonWhiskCheese graterSmall saucepan for using as a bain marieMethodGrate up 1 and 3/4 heaped desertspoons of bees wax. I heap my spoonfuls quite high, there's a lot of air in grated wax. Melt the wax in a plastic bowl with 1/2 teaspoon of emulsifying wax, 8 desertspoons of sweet almond oil, and 4 level desertspoons of coconut oil. Be careful not to go overboard with the coconut oil, in the right quantity it makes your creme lush and creamy, too much and you get an oil slick. I melt the wax by placing the bowl in a saucepan of boiling water over a medium heat setting on the stove.Caution Always heat waxes and oils in a saucepan of water and never in the pan over direct heat. Cosmetic waxes and oils have low flashpoints and you could end up with a fire very easily.It should take between 5-8mins to completely melt and fully combine. Use a spoon to lift a bit of the mixture out and examine it. The emulsifying wax is usually the last thing to melt and you could still have tiny unmelted chips of it in your mixture. Once it's fully combined remove the saucepan from the stove and place it on a chopping board, leave your melted mixture in the saucepan for the time being. Begin stirring the mixture with a whisk. One spoonful at a time add the floral water (8 desertspoons worth) mixing in bet[...]

It's official, I am done!


It's official the petti is now complete including all handstitching and so forth. It's a real garment. So what are my thoughts on that project....

Best Beginners Project- No pattern involved just pleat two large rectangles of fabric onto two long strips of fabric, sew up the side seams and you're done. Wish I'd made this first. All in all a full length petticoat including miles of trim took 2.5m of 140cm wide fabric. Use the full width of your fabric and cut it as long as you need it. If your fabric is only 112cm wide then you may need to make panels to get the necessary fullness. Total cost $24, made with silk voile and lined with rayon.

Comfort Rating - 5 Stars Although it's quite heavy to hang and handle (which surprised me given how light the fabrics were) it's supremely comfortable to wear. Unlike wrap around skirts which constantly need retying and adjusting, this skirt goes on and sits where it's supposed to. I like wearing it and would definately make more of these little babies, another one has just been added to my project list. I won't be wearing 18th C pockets so only left a 4" gap at the sides for getting the petti on and off and it doesn't gape there at all.

Usability- There is no end to the uses for this item. I think it's got to be the quickest and easiest way to extend an 18th C wardrobe, just make more of them in various colours to co-ordinate with existing pieces. Simple. I got quite a lot of poof with this petti even though the fabric has practically no body and a very soft drape. If I wanted to go full-on 1780's I think only the addition of a slightly stiffer petti underneath would do the trick.

Caution- Do not make one if you intend to have small looking hips, this skirt will not do that for you. But on the plus side, it automatically reduces the relative size of your waist.

Cheats- Because we all love a good shortcut. If you plan on putting a flounce on your petti and your petti will either be lined like mine or you will wear another petti underneath, then just cut one [flounce] twice the desired width, fold it in half and sew that to bottom of your hem. It will save you from having to hem the petti, which I have to say could wipe days off your project. But the caveat here is that you will need a liner in the petti so the flounce sits out rather than hanging limply and looking like a refugee from a bed valance.

If time is an issue do not trim the petti at all. Many cotton pettis were not trimmed, rather leaning towards the simpler style which would soon come into vogue. Instead choose a beautiful self strip or patterned fabric and make it plain. The trim added 3 full days of sewing onto this project because of the huge-mongous hems which had to be handsewn.

Spring Is In Full Swing



Oh! The sweet smell of neroli. Two things in life I rely on to tell me about the seasons. The first is the scent of jasmine as it lines many roads in Sydney and you can smell it from miles away. When the jasmine is abound spring has come. The second blush of spring is signalled by the heady scent of orange blossoms, also a garden favourite in the Edwardian homes of my area.

Jasmine reminds me of being young and alive, whenever I smell it I am instantly 15 again and walking home from school. Neroli is the scent of summer as far as I'm concerned. Together they are my personal nirvana. I love this time of year.

Consolidation, The Project List


So in taking a break from my projects, I've managed to get my head into a space conducive to sewing. So here's the projects in order of completion...

1780s Jacket - completed, awaiting petticoat
Floaty Petticoat - awaiting waistband straps and side seams, expect to complete very soon. Hems, pleating & trims are all done.
New Stays - draft a pattern, sew a mockup, start on stays.
Hat- either wide brimmed or tall hat style. Think that after my stays I'll need a break from the sewing machine for a while. So hat is a good option even though it's not priority garment.
Caraco a la polonaisee - made to go with existing petti and depending on how I feel may also make a white self-stripe floaty petti.
Redingote - still having conceptional design issues with this and it's not needed until next June anyway. Start around April 2010.

So far that's the project list and I'm happy to stop looking for inspiration until I get some of this ticked off. Phew!

Sewing Credo


If you are going to invest your time in something as impractical as sewing historical costume then it really pays to have a method to your madness. Every inspiration source I look at gives me that ooooh, I want to make that too feeling. If I put every bit of costume eye-candy on my project list I'd never do anything except costume for my next 3 incarnations. I had to have a way to tame the fabric lust, the knee jerk reactions and stupid projects that I know I'll get bored of before I even cut the cloth.

I've done some thinking today and come up with some hard and fast rules for culling the "list" to a manageable level...

Invest In The Best

If I don't love it I leave it. Any fabric I feel ambivalent about never gets purchased no matter how useful I might find it later on or what a great deal it is. If I can't pick that fabric up and instantly know what I'll make out of it then it's not for me. And I have to admit there have been times when I've wanted to bring fabric home that I had a feeling would be great for "something" but I've left it behind. And it's usually only a few hours before I feel that was the right decision to make. My current fabric hoard is decidely lean, it all fits into one square foot box. Every item in there is earmarked for a particular project. There's no fabric just lying around without a project to call home.

One Garment, Multiple Uses

I like to mix and match my wardrobe, even my historical wardrobe. I won't invest a week or two of my spare time on a standalone item unless it's very, very special. So far there's no project in that category. My fabric choices have to cross-dress. One petti, multiple jackets that co-ordinate, one jacket multi petti's that go. I actually think this is very 18th century of me. There's a reason why many 18th century ensembles are seperate pieces. Aside from a lack of fastening choices I also think it has a lot to do with frugality. When your clothes chew as much fabric as these ones do it really pays to get as many outfits as possible out of each piece. Only the very rich could afford an endless wardrobe, and even then there's evidence clothes were recycled with recuts as well. Since I don't fall into the very rich category I'll stick with mixing and matching as much as possible.

Take My Time

I'd much rather own one beautifully tailored ensemble than five that reminded me of how much I rushed them to completion. I like to chew over design and trim choices weeks in advance of beginning the project. I like to ensure my fabrics co-ordinate with existing pieces. I enjoy taking the time to handsew trims and finishes. I'd be proud of a piece that took me weeks to create because I know how nicely finished it is. And most of all, this take my time process allows me to eliminate projects which won't entertain me for long. If I get bored of it in the planning stages then it's really unlikely I'll finish it, so why start it? Besides planning a project is really more than half the fun of it.

God I Hate Sewing Right Now


Ironic isn't it? I just post about a new project, yet another project, even while I am still working on my first project, and I hate sewing already. Just having a suckful day I guess. It's taken about half of my life just to hem and affix trim to my floaty petti, what should have been a simple and quick project. But oh no, I have to go and have these "brilliant" trim ideas that take forever to do and frankly I'm not convinced they were worth it.

I can only pray that sewing a couple of ties onto the tops of my petti is a hell of a lot easier than the freakin hems. If I had any rope handy I would have necked myself already. Good thing all I've got is miles of tangled thread.

Refuse to even look at sewing machine tomorrow....going out scooter riding instead.

The Know It When I See It Fabric



Since I've been accused of keeping you all in suspense here's the fabric which spells my doom....It's silk dupioni and yes, yes dupioni is not an historically correct fabric. And in my own way, history be stuffed because I'm using it anyway and the only reason it wasn't used back then is because no-one made it. It's too darn cute not to use.

Oh Pooh! Now I Have To Make A Polonaise....sigh


I've been feeling rather smug in that despite a rampant desire for a complete 18th century wardrobe and matching shoes I have thus far managed to resist the pull of the polonaise. In fact I was just thinking this very afternoon that my jacket and petti (when I do finally finish them) may well satisfy my creative urge for the next month or so. What with new stays on the project list as well it was beginning to look as if I might achieve all that then be free to daydream.

After all my polonaise was awaiting the discovery of the "perfect polonaise" fabric. You know that fictious fabric that you have in your head. You have no idea what it looks like, can't describe it, it doesn't even have a colour yet. But when you see it, you'll know it. It's a masterfully convenient way to put the brakes on costuming projects especially when you already have enough on your plate. Oh I can't even think about that until I find the perfect fabric

Well it is masterful until that fictious perfect fabric just so happens to find it's way onto your computer screen. You see it, say Oooh! Which kidney don't I need.. and before you know it both your fabric hoard and your never ending project list have expanded and there's nothing you can do about it. The only question now, am I making a polonaise robe or caraco? One will require a slightly smaller mortgage than the other....decisions, decisions.

And The Petti Goes Slowly


I thought I was on a roll tonight with the trim on my petti (why is it always the trim that I balls up?) when no, I had gone about it the wrong way and had to backtrack a bit. No great loss just a feeling that this seemingly simple thing is never ending, on with it tomorrow again.

18th Century Stays - Redux


As I'm now quite close to finishing my first ensemble I'm naturally turning my attention to the next project. And as much I'd love that project to be a hat, I have a terrible feeling it's going to be stays instead. One of the great disappointments of costuming is that the more you wear the underwear the more acutely you realise just what's wrong with it. Every time I put my current stays on I'm reminded why I want to make a new pair. Prettiness and ease of wearing.

So now I'm clear as to what it is I'll be making I'd better make a list so I don't run off into the bushes on a wild goose chase. Trust me, stays are painful enough to make without flailing about with fabric and no clue as to where you are going.

Diderot Style Why? Two reasons, they are cute and they are vastly simpler to sew than the 10 piece set I tried earlier. Diderot stays are usually 4 pieces, partially boned and many costumers whack them together in a weekend. And the best part is I can modify my existing bodice pattern to make them.

Front lacing with stomacher Experience tells me that front lacing is a must if you are not in possession of household servants. But I really like the idea of front lacing with adjustment even better. Hence the stomacher which allows you to lace your stays as open or closed as your mood takes you. Plus pretty ribbon lacing across the front is sooo theatrically cute.

All silk construction I have amazingly managed to find some very stiff and heavy weight silk drill which has the heft in it to make full silk stays. I'll cover it with the dupion I also scored in the same shopping trip. Hopefully it will be less "thermal" than my current pair.

Permanent straps this timeActually there's no comfort or fit reason for this, I just like the look of strapped stays better and since my pattern already has straps why not?

And now that I look at that list I have to warn you. There is not one single pair of extant 18th century stays that actually looks like that. So I will definately be making 18th century "inspired stays" and stray very far from the realms of historical costuming.

Hamlet, I love You But You Make My Life So Hard



Must be time for lunch because Hamlet has definately decided it's time to put that darn sewing away!

Just Wow!


Ok so it's no secret I'm not fond of my current pair of stays and will shortly design and make my own version of 18th century stays from scratch. Designed with ease of wearing and prettiness in mind. And when I do such things I like to scour the net for anything I haven't seen before, even other costumers renditions of comfortable stays because you know why reinvent the wheel?

In my journey I came across this...


It looks very modern. In fact if I didn't know better I'd swear it was Victorian or even someone's interesting current creation. It certainly does not look almost 400 years old. I almost fell off my chair to discover it's dated around 1640! The hip gores in particular are interesting to me because those historical little tabs on 18th century stays are pure evil to bind. I'm also loving the huge eyelets which are apparently handsewn and the whole silhouette is rather interesting. I just wish there were side and back views.

You can find this little gem at the Manchester Art Gallery here

More Trim Ideas


From the School of Snip-n-Rip. I wanted some silk ribbon for my petticoat and am using my *ahem* faux silk (aka rayon) and looky what I discovered. Torn rayon once ironed flat is ready frayed and has a lovely lustrous edging that seems just perfect to me as is. It also doesn't appear to want to ravel much more which is even better.

No Need To Tell Me. I Am Insane



Why else would you knife pleat a flounce on an enormous petticoat when you could simply gather it and be done? Oh, and that's not all the detailing yet.

Perfect In Its Simplicity


It's always difficult to recreate a portrait dress, mostly because the artist finds it so much easier to make a gown becoming with paint then we do with fabric. But if ever I were inspired to reproduce a portrait outfit it would have to be this little cutie...


I've always had a thing for 18th century shepherdesses and even more so faux 18th century shepherdesses. I mean honestly, would you trample through a muddy paddock in those shoes? That aside this ensemble looks not only delightful but it's simplicity is perfection as well. It looks as if she might get out once in a while (in between languishing upon overstuffed chaises). I suppose in 18th Century terms this could be sportswear.

Hems Are Done!


Glee! Glee! Glee! I have completed all the handsewn hems and pretty much the rest of it is machine sewing again. Oh how wonderful life is. I'm off to enjoy the beauty of the day and get my exercise at the same time. The only time I don't enjoy my sewing is when I'm wasting fine weather.

Almost There


Just 3 meters of hemming to go.

The Quintessential Robe


Nothing says the 18th Century more to me than this little gown. As much I look at more spectacular gowns elsewhere this is the one I always come back to. I love it for several reasons. The shape and proportions are just perfect, it's polonaised, hello! it's got bows on the front and I just love the deep yellow plain fabric which is a nice relief to the fussy patterned gowns of the same period.This is most definately the robe I will be modelling my own one on. Most striking to me about this robe is all the self-trim. It just goes on and on and on. Yep a lot of handsewing in this one. I doubt though I will make it in yellow as it's just a no-go with my skin tone. Perhaps a madder pink or gorgeous stripe.If you're into patterns then there is none lovelier than these deep pink roses on a duck-egg blue ground. A silk brocade, half your luck to finding anything remotely similar these days. I also think the stomacher decoration below is brilliant, 18th century without miles of fuss. Definately is a lovely way to go.But then again if fuss is your thing, and why would you be into the 18th century if you didn't like fuss?, then perhaps the treatment on this 1780's robe a la turque is more your style.The only problem with my own robe project is that I haven't found a fabric I absolutely adore yet, and I can't settle on the level of fuss I want. I am also torn between a robe a la anglaise (with fitted back) over the robe a la francaise (the sacque back). I like the anglaise better I will honestly say but part of me thinks I will always feel incomplete if I don't make a francaise.[...]