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My next project will be a 1805-1810 white evening dress made from very sheer and fine muslin cotton. I want this dress to be outstanding and am going to take as much time as possible 😀

The occasion of this dress:

1) Balls, Jane Austen Festival, Regency parties
2) Daily special occasion when I can dress up a little bit but not exaggerating. It should be convenient for walking.

I don’t want to spend so many hours making an art piece and then just hang it in the wardrobe. Fashion for me has to be practical. 

The Style

After doing many research in libraries and museums, I have chosen my favourite following styles:

Sleeves and shape of skirt: puffed, short sleeves, skirt without train. Waistband may be embroidered. No sash! (I so dislike the shining things) Hem and the front panel will be embroidered (this is going to be such a long project…)

1810 British Cotton and Linen Dress: Met Museum. Sleeve with and without filling

1804-05 French Evening Dress: V&A Museum

 
The embroidery of the dress above is my favourite style 🙂 As I have taken the whitework embroidery course at the Royal School of Needlework,  this project will be perfect for me to practise those Mountmellick stitches!

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My Hand-Stitched Regency Gown

Start date: Feb 10, 2012
Finish date: Feb 23, 2012
Fabric: for the size 12 I made, 4 Yds, 51″wide; Lining: 1 Yd
Adjustment points: Length of skirt: Cut 37″(upper skirt)+11″(lower skirt) instead of 39 1/2″ + 12″ suggested by the pattern

#031: Circa 1796-1806 Lewis & Clark Era: Empire Gown - Courtesy: Past Patterns

 As my first attempt for the La Mode Bagatelle Bodiced Petticoat went on very well, I decided to challenge myself for an authentic period look, using the Front Closing Gown pattern from Past Patterns. According to the good reviews on GBACG by many costumers, this pattern should be very professional and reliable and this is proved to be true. To be honest, if I have had used this pattern before the LMB one, I wouldn’t be able to bear with the drawings and wording of the LMB…Not because that LMB is too bad, but just Past Patterns is too good. (In fact the result of LMB petticoat looks great) The pattern is very well researched, correctly illustrated and very clearly texted.  I have only found very few points where the outcome doesn’t match the instruction, and I will list them below.

My fabric for this gown: Green-grey cotton as the fashion fabric, and linen as the lining

The fabric I use is a very light weighted Italian cotton. For lining I simply used my leftover 100% white linen fabric from the LMB petticoat, which is a bit luxious as that linen costs about £10 a metre :p. I took a little bit risk here as I didn’t test the pattern on a cheaper fabric first, but I was kind of confident and  had a bet on my skills. Thanks God it comes out well!

Bodice Lining

As sewing machine was not invented at that time, hand-stitch is required for the whole gown. I have tried my best to hand-stitch 90% of the gown, except for some terribly long lines on the skirt. (It’s really too tiring to sew several 88-inch-long back stitches by hand!!! :p:p:p)

Trianglel: Back Piece

The design of the back is the eye-catching part of this gown. The front part of the lining is separate with the bodice, and will hang free and be pinned when being worn.

Bodice: Fashion Fabric and Lining Together

When it came to the cord, the pattern suggested to use candlewicking yarn to make your own cord. I couldn’t find this yarn/thread either in my local craft shops or harberdashery departments in John Lewis or Liberty, so I digged some 100% cotton knitting yarn from my stash, which happen to look nice with the fabric, and twisted them to make the neck cord.

Cotton Knitting Yarn as Cord 🙂

So far the pattern has done really well for the bodice and I didn’t meet any difficulty except for a tiny mistake on page 7: when it says to press the seam allowance to the wrong side for the lining, it should be the right side. The illustration is correct but the texts are not. The second issue is when it came to the knife pleats of the skirt, I had some problem with the pleating template. Not sure if it’s something to do with sizes, but the pleats made according to the template don’t match the center back of the bodice – the right side (close to the CF) is much shorter than the left side, making the possibility of having at least 9 pleats on the left, but only 5 on the right. I had to move the template the width of 1.5 pleats to the left, starting from the CF, to make it look about equal. This is the only problem I had with the pattern.

Making Pleats and Front Crescent Tuck

For the hem of the skirt, I deliberately left the selvage side of the lower skirt undone. So here is the completed gown!

1796-1806: Front Closing Gown

I’m not very sure about the front tuck…Although it does make the length right. And also the neck cord should be hiden inside, but I think it’s ok to let them out since they add some brightness to the gown.
 

1796 Gown: Side View 1

Although this is how the back should look like, I think I’ll prefer a more high-waist back. Until next time!

1796 Gown: Back View

Basically I am quite satisfied with it and think it is a very pretty day dress 😉  I’m supposed to wear a chemise, transition stay and a neck kerchief underneath, but they haven’t been made yet :p

Well… me appeared in the London Coffee Guide :p Here’s a proper one:

The London Coffee Guide

The Last - Prescott & Mackay's Blog

We received the freshly released London Coffee Guide this morning, telling us that The 3 Little Pigs Coffee Corner is listed as one of London’s top 100 coffee venues 🙂

We are thrilled with this news and can’t wait to share it with you. Many who have come in the Black Truffle boutique to take shoemaking, bag-making courses at Prescott & Mackay downstairs might have tried our truly delicious coffee and be impressed as much as so was London Coffee Guide.

The guide has also featured the Beginners Shoemaking Course in the school.

Well, here’s the place you can find quirky shoes, best quality craft courses and the most wonderful coffee under one roof 🙂

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From my craft experience the most important thing I’ve leant is not to rush, although it means I have to painstakingly fight against my passion or urge (or obsession?) to have things done.  After my last blog entry about the La Mode Bagatelle Bodiced Petticoat, I have done some more research about the period regency look and decided the one I like the most. So the way I do my gathering is:

1) flat on the center part of the front panel,
2) some slight gathers under the princess line / bust line,
3) then concentrate most gathers on the back. 

Examples include this 1805-1810 gown – cotton muslin, embroidered with white cotton, lined with linen:

1805-1810 Gown-France (V&A Image Collection)

And this 1812 fashion palette:

1812 Dress

I then go on to complete the waistband of the petticoat. The pattern suggests to add a ribbon (petersham?) to the waistband to make it sturdier, but not so clear about where to how to sew this ribbon on? Also I don’t quite fancy the synthetic look of a petersham, so I have used a cotton tape instead, trimming the gathered layer a bit and then hand-stitched the cotton tape in place. Now the petticoat looks like this!

My bodiced petticoat - not hemmed yet

Back of the waistline

 
Well it’s not very perfectly gathered…but I can get on with it. 😛 After sewing the bars and hooks on, all left is the hem! Another question comes out – how should I hem it? I am tempted to go for the corded tack, and not so keen on the idea of adding ruffles as suggested by the pattern. But so far I have done nearly everything strictly according to the pattern (except for the material used for the ribbon in the waistband), and the outcome has been very beautiful. Maybe I shouldn’t risk to ruin it at the last step. 😛

I went to the studio yesterday and completed the skirt part of the petticoat. All the seams on the skirt are french seams. Then comes the most exciting bit: gathering!

The pattern suggests to either concentrate the gathers at the back, or arrange them evenly around the front. I tried to pin them to show the two different effects before sewing:

Left: gather at back; Right: gather evenly around front

If viewing from the side they look also quite different:

Left: gather mainly at back; Right: gather evening around

It’s difficult to make up my mind which one to choose…Which one would you suggest? 🙂

When I firstly attended the Jane Austen Promenade in Bath in 2008, I wore a vintage Laura Ashley dress, which was a normal daily dress but I shaped the sleeve a bit. I am not fully satisfied with it so ever since then I am determined to make my own authentic regency gowns, and the time finally comes!

Me in Bath

After doing a lot of research on the Internet I have collected some most recommended patterns, including La Mode Bagatelle Regency Wardrobe(for beginners and improvers. Although not 100% periodically correct it’ll look nice), 1796-1806 Empire Gown from Past Patterns, 1809 Day Dress from Period Impressions and Mantua-Maker… I am an experienced leather worker but haven’t done many sewing projects before, so hopefully starting from the petticoat by La Mode Bagatelle will be easier for me.

What's in the La Mode Bagatelle Package

The fabric I use for the petticoat is very light-weighted linen from Italy.

Italian Linen

I have to say there are quite a few points not clear in this LMB pattern instruction. I’ll try to write them down as I progress, and hopefully my notes will also be helpful  for those who get confused reading this pattern.

Point 1: The neckline casing. The instruction says to stitch the bias strips to the lining, but doesn’t say to the wrong side or the right side. If the former there’s no way for the drawstring to come out unless you make some eyelets on either the lining or the bodice, which is not mentioned in the instruction, so I decide to do it to the right side, and stitched the folded edge of bias with the lining as well. Fortunately it looks good so far.

La Mode Bagatelle - Bodiced Petticoat Neckline Casing from the Lining Side

LMB - Bodiced Petticoat - Bodice Front

 Point 2: After stitching all around the neckline and armhole, I’ll need to turn the whole thing inside out. It literally takes HOURS to turn, as the shoulder straps are so narrow that I nearly thought it was a mission impossible. The booklet doesn’t say anything about how difficult this will be, but just “turn”. Luckily enough, it is possible (thank God!)  to turn the whole thing as long as you do it bit by bit. A great amount of patience is needed here. 

LMB-Bodiced Petticoat Shoulder Strap after Turning

Point 3: Then it says “right side together, stitch center back”. It made me nearly stitch the left and right center back pieces together, but I soon realised that I wouldn’t be able to put it on if I did so! It must mean that the left piece should stitch with left and right with right.

Point 4: Stitch side fronts to backs with the bodice and lining opened out, then stitch the seam as self-casing. Make sure that you do the casing on the lining only – another thing not explained by the pattern. 😦

Well, so far it has taken some time but it’s getting there. I’ll keep working on the skirts tomorrow!

It has been a year since I made my first pair of shoes by hand. I’ve completed three sessions of the Shoemaking Evening Class at Prescott & Mackay – the two pairs below were made during this period. I’ve gained a lot of confidence on my shoemaking skills via these courses. Some of the students might ask why they can still feel uncomfortable wearing their handmade shoes. Shouldn’t all the handmade shoes be super comfy?

从做出自己的第一双手工鞋到现在已经一年多了。我完成了P&M的三个晚间制鞋课程,下面这两双鞋子就是在此期间做的。觉得自己已经比较好地掌握了手工做鞋的大部分要领。有同学会发现,我都已经从头到尾自己动手做鞋了,为什么鞋子还是会有不舒服的地方呢?不是说手工鞋应该是最舒服的吗?

Flat Fishskin Shoes made by Florrie 

Kid skin Shoes made by Florrie
The answer to this question is the shoe last. The lasts are supposed to reflect the shape of human feet, so someone can easily feel uncomfortable if the last of his shoe doens’t duplicate his foot, which is a common case. Before we attend the advanced course, we can control the materials and style of the shoe, such as choosing our own leather, drawing our own design, and assembling the shoes ourselves, but the shoe lasts we use are still the standard ones.  They might have thousands of differences with our own feet, not to mention the fact that they mirror each other, while none of us have completely symmetrical feet.  Why Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoes were so famous for being comfotable? Of course it was because he tailor-made the lasts for those celebrities.  

这个问题的回答就在于鞋楦。鞋楦,概括来说是人脚的尺寸复制,如果你做鞋时使用的鞋楦并不是你的脚的复制品,那么当然舒服度有限。在没有参加高级课程之前,我们能够控制的只是鞋子使用的原材料(你可以亲自挑选上好的皮,自己设计鞋子的款式,颜色搭配,然后动手把鞋子的各部分组装完成),但所使用的鞋楦仍然是市场上能够买得到的标准版本,这些标准鞋楦的长、宽、高都和你真正的两只脚有十万种细微的差距,更不用说两只鞋楦完全呈镜面对称这一点,是如何影响脚有大小的同学的舒适度的。意大利近代鞋匠名师Ferragamo做的鞋之所以如此出了名的舒适,当然是因为他为每个订制鞋的名人都量体定制了鞋楦。放眼现今的世界,除了十个手指头都数得过来的那些订制鞋专家,还有哪个奢侈品牌卖鞋之前先给客人量双脚做鞋楦?

Salvatore Ferragamo in its workshop with the lasts - 1955

The second important reason for painful shoes are down to the materials. Except for those sandals which expose the wearers’ toes and back heels, bespoke shoes all use carefully selected vege-tanned leather to make the toe puff, counter stiffener, insoles, soles and heels (People who have taken P&M’s courses will understand what I am talking about! :p).  However, non-bespoke shoes use self-adhesive non-woven for toe puffs and counter stiffeners, pressed cellulosic paper board for the insole, resin for the soles and plastic or wood for the heels…How big the differences are!

导致鞋子不舒服的第二重要原因还是材料。除了露趾露后跟的凉鞋以外,定制的鞋子的鞋包头、后踵里衬、内底、甚至鞋跟和鞋底全部都是由精挑细选部位的植鞣皮制作,而非定制的鞋子的鞋包头和后踵里衬是自粘型的无纺布,内底是冲压纸板,鞋底是树脂,鞋跟是塑料加皮包面,或者木头。差别是有多么大呀..

So I booked onto the Advanced Shoemaking Course at P&M: Made-to-Measure. This is the only sort of ultimate course I can find in the market. The tutor is Sebastian Tarek, who has rich experience in artisan bespoke shoemaking and coming from the 18th generation shoe maker family background. One pair of his bespoke shoes start from £2,000.  

于是P&M的这个高级课程无疑是目前市场上能找到的手工鞋终极课程。老师是已经有十年高级定制制鞋经验的Sebastian Tarek,他的定制鞋子两千英镑起。

Simple Oxford by Sebastian

The course has two modules with three days in the first module and two days in the second. At the beginning of the first module the tutor taught us how to measure people’s feet. The picture below is the shape of my feet, with the right one slightly bigger than the left one, which is normal.

课程分两个阶段,第一阶段三天,第二阶段两天。第一阶段一开始老师就教我们如何测量脚的尺寸。这是我的双脚轮廓,右脚比左脚大——很正常,老师说没有谁的两只脚是完全一样的,谁要是一样,那他可能不是人,是阿凡达。

Shape of My Feet
 The next step is to duplicate these measurements onto the shoe lasts. We use cork sheet to do the scuplture. After a half-day’s cutting, rough rasping and sanding, the width and depth of the lasts finally meet my measurements.

测量好尺寸以后,就要把这些尺寸复制到鞋楦上了。我们用可塑性很强的软木塞板来实现这个过程。经过整整半天的切削、粗磨、精磨,鞋楦的宽和深度终于和我的脚的尺寸一致了……

Altering The Last

Once solving the issue of the lasts, we move to the components of a shoe: the insole, toe puff and counter stiffener (in Module 1).  The material for insole is very thick vege-tanned calf skin but relatively soft, whilst the toe puff and counter stiffener use the belly part of the leather, which is much stiffer. Before putting these components onto the last we need to hand-skive the edge, which is the most tiring part for me.

鞋楦的问题解决以后,就开始学习制作全皮的各种配件。在第一阶段里我们学做鞋内底、鞋包头和后踵里衬。鞋内底的原材料是很厚的牛皮的肩膀部位,而鞋包头和后踵衬是稍微柔软一些的肚腹部位。在给这些部件上楦之前都要先人手削薄边缘,这对我来说是最累的部分。

As the focus of this class is made-to-measure instead of designing fancy shoes, I briefly make a pattern of a very simple court shoe, cut a piece of silver leather and complete the closing of upper as soon as possible, then waiting for lasting.  

为了专注于手工量体的主题,鞋子的式样不是这门课的重点,所以以简洁为主。我就使用一块银色小牛皮设计了一个最简单的样式,以最快的速度做好了纸样,裁好皮并缝制,就等着结合配件上楦了。

lasting the leather toe puff

After lasting, the first module of this course is competed. Two weeks later we are going to have the second module of this course, in which we will do the fittings and make the soles and heels with leather. So excited! I have to say lasting the all-leather shoe feels so good, and the shoes there have so much more contents as if they are telling stories, which the artificial shoes have nothing to compare to.

最后就是上楦了。整只鞋上好楦以后,第一阶段完成。两周以后的第二阶段课程里我们要学习调整鞋的尺寸,用皮制作鞋底和鞋跟。不得不说全部采用皮料的鞋子上起楦来手感妙得难以言传,捧在手中凝重踏实,和使用人工材料不可同日而语。这就是我的作品上好楦的样子,看着它们好像看着自己的双脚,感觉真奇妙~

The Lasted Shoes - Module 1