Monday, October 31, 2011

Make Do

When you have to sew a large quantity of costumes, like I do, with a deadline, like I do, improvisation can be your best friend. For myself, for paying customers, and for my brothers I sew period correct clothing, but for performances I don't always have the time or the money to sew the right way. Thrift stores and donations are my supply stores; coupons and creativity are necessities. Here you see before you a wool suit coat, probably from the 1990's and too large for any of my family members. Rescued from languishing in a dusty closet, it is ready to be transformed to a new purpose.

Chop it up.

Cut out the sleeves and the collar. Hack it to pieces. Vent your anger at the people who gained weight between costume fittings, and those sour individuals who don't like their costumes. Forget your mountain of waiting projects and scissor that thing apart.

Take your traced, borrowed or stolen but certainly not bought pattern of a nineteenth century man's waistcoat and place it where convenient. Make it fit. Save the front seams and buttonholes if you can.

At the end of cutting you should have the all the parts for a basic, not entirely correct waistcoat- an easy way to spice up any man's wardrobe. You may have to add some lining to the back piece, if you take out the usual polyester lining like I do. Take off the plastic buttons and buy some metal ones at Hancock's when they go 50% off.

This is how I sew. Shocked?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My little camera doesn't take very good quality close-up photos, so I had Caleb take a few with his super fancy camera. Here is tail number one, close to completion. All the buttons are plugged in, the pleat is stitched down, and the lining is ready to be put over all.

The top of the tail with its beautiful and expensive buttons.

Caleb has a nice camera.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Caleb's Growing Coatee

I hope you're not all sick and tired of hearing about the coatee, because it's a long ways from finished.

I had to cut the tails down to a shorter length to fit Caleb's class and era. I've tacked down the front flap of the tail and stitched on the fake pocket, which will have four buttons on it for decoration. The tail pleats seam to serve no purpose since they're going to be stiched closed as well.

The tail pleat with its two decorative half hidden buttons.

Plugged buttons, on the underside. Poke through the wool with an awl, push the button loop through, and thread a bit of fabric through. The button is secure and flat on the outside of the coat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reformation Faire 2011

I've just returned home from a whirlwind trip to our sister church in Illinois to call a dance for their Reformation Day Faire. We had a wonderful crowd of dancers. It's always fun to call for a different group. And it's always cool to see so many men in kilts. The food was amazing, and we even got paid to be there. Was that a good deal or what?

(Picture stolen from someone I barely know on Facebook- I didn't take a single picture)
I somehow managed to pull a muscle in my back the last evening there. It certainly wasn't because I was doing something athletic, so I'm rather disgusted with myself. If one is in pain they at least ought to have an interesting story to tell why. I spent the ride home trying not to move, breathe, cough, sneeze or laugh. The last time I pulled a muscle it was because I was trying to reach the gas pedal in Dad's pickup.

It took us an extra hour and a half to get home because road crews are taking down the large sandbags along the highway that runs from Blair to Mossouri Valley. The highway is closed for five days while the road is returned to normal after the extensive flooding.

We're glad to be home.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

1820 Military Coatee: The Continuing Saga

I'm taking a dance trip this weekend, so the coatee is at a standstill until next week, but I did get a hold of a completed coatee to use as an example. I took a few pictures for your information.

This coatee is definitely in need of some TLC: a good cleaning, new lace and buttons. It's a much used hand-me down, roughly 40 chest and rather short. The owner is something of a collector who regularly loans out clothing to the less fortunate, so far as I can tell.

The cuffs are sewn right side to right side and then folded down, and the lining stitched under. I learned how to plug buttons the other day, which creates the buttoned-down look you see above.

There's a slit on the side of the cuff to allow freedom of movement. The cuffs should fall down the knuckles.

The collar has yellow wool trim, which means the wearer is Artillery. Caleb is Infantry, which would be white wool trim and different buttons.

The tails fall mid-thigh. The pockets are fake, and the edge of the wool folds over the front of the sides.

Here you can see the side-edge folded over and part of the fake pocket.

Notice the placement of the curved back and shoulder seams related to the underarm seam.

To the modern bystander or experienced reeactor these details may seem obvious and boring. But I am learning by trial and error, tooth and nail, and if any fresh, new 1820 military reenactor ever finds my blog I hope these pictures help just a little. I'm very thankful to those who have helped me and answered some of my many questions.


Two green waistcoats with metal buttons.

Sneak peek at the Fezziwig Ball: The Ghost of Christmas Present

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To Move or not to Move?

I haven't posted about our thoughts on moving for quite some time, and since some people have been asking what's going on I thought I might summarize it here.

Our moving saga of four years continues to grow in drama. It was four years ago that we decided we needed to move closer to our church and Dad's work in the city. Since that time we've considered almost every living condition under the sun, from building our own house to erecting tepees. Then when the price of building materials went up we started actually looking at houses. Jen went for the ones with tall white pillars where ladies wear evening dresses, and Dad went for the unique ones like the $800,000 western movie set.

With Grandma's growing need for in-home care we began to seriously consider the few options open to us. All the houses on the edge of town within our price range are either small compared to where we're living now, or in need of much repair. It's a hard choice to make: is it worth it to move and go into debt if we will be moving to a smaller or needy house?

Just last week we made an offer on a beautiful old house, much smaller than our own but fifty miles closer to Dad's work. The family in residence is a really sweet family that decided to move because the Dad lost his job. We're waiting now to hear if they will negotiate with us, since they thought our offer was too low.

So that's our current state: we may buy this house. We may move. We might also stay where we are, and if so, turn the library into a bedroom for Grandma. Either way, life is changing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Coatee

My two goals for this house-sitting jaunt, are, you recall:
  • Relax
  • Sew
It's not really happening that way! I feel like I've been dragged hither and yon most of the week. Yesterday, though, I did very little because I had "Low spirits," ie I wasn't feeling well at all. So that counts as relaxing, and today I'll get back to sewing. I sewed the side seams and sleeve seams for the coatee the other day, and tonight I'll be fitting it on the handsome model to make sure it fits.

The sleeves are slightly curved down the side. I've never sewn with wool before, and this material seems so stiff that I don't know how it will ever press down.

On the right here you can see the two back peices with a center seam attached to the side front, using a very curved side seam. Very different from the straight modern seamlines we have today.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hunting Frock: The Saga Continues

The hunting frock pattern that was kindly copied for me is a size 40 chest. My brothers are several pounds, inches and years aways from possibility of having a 40 chest. I've enlarged patterns with success before, but never cut them down ten inches.
The cut of the pattern and shape of the garment are unlike anything I've ever constructed, probably because I've never sewn men's outer garments before. The person who devised this article of clothing was clearly demented, or maybe just evil. I understand now how it goes together, but I've given up on it fitting smoothly, especially with the size change. My sewing standard has become "You're wearing it, no matter what!"

Start your day with Nutella- especially if you're going to be sewing all day long. I've cut out three waistcoats and three ladies caps for the upcoming Christmas Ball.

As far as Caleb's coatee, I thought it was going to be simple. I bought a pattern from Smoke and Fire because I got tired of borrowing patterns. The trim is different, but the basic pattern is, I  think. the same. It still scares me, though. The navy blue wool material was given to me for a donation of what I had on me, which was $5 total(I think the cheapest wool I've ever seen was $10 a yard, and this is nearly three yeards). The white linen lining I bought at Hancock's for probably $5 a yard. Caleb and our costume fund are paying for the 38 buttons at $2 each(sigh), and I'm doing the labor for free. We're doing it the cheap way, but I can totally understand how with the cost of materials and hours of labor these coats go for hundreds of dollars.

The coatee front and back from the top.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

House-Sitting Again

I am watching someone's house again, and I'm already on day six. I was trying to figure out the other day how many weeks I've spent in this house over the past year, and I guessed that all told it came to ten weeks. The residents have had a busy travel year.

I'm glad to be here. September was a rather stressful month, with guests, the History Festival, and house-hunting(just thinking about moving is stressful). I'm enjoying the relaxing sensation of silence, my own bathroom(three bathrooms to myself!), and the freedom of my own basic schedule. Jen is always warning me how dangerous it is to live alone, because it's easy to succomb to independent living. But it's so relaxing.

And I do have chores. Today is domestic day: water the immaculate flower beds, laundry, dishes, and an afternoon trip to take Grandma to the Doctor. My goal while here is to get a great deal of sewing done. So far I've cut out three bonnets and three waistcoats, but what I really need to work on are military coats for my brothers. I'm just scared to start on them.