Posts Tagged With: period dress

I Finally Started It!

Well, yes I did, but not the way one is suppose to. I am talking about my Lena dress that has been hanging over my head for a year now. I’ve been trying to make a muslin of the dress to make sure I get it all the right way before cutting my handwoven fabric. Now, I am working from a pattern, but I am also changing the sleeves somewhat. Can I do this? It’s looking like it might take me down.

But I decided that I was going to at least start sewing, I had to succeed somewhere, and the way to do that was to start with the skirt which is pretty straight forward. Sewing four rectangle panels together. Ok, so that sounds easy, right? Well three of them were very easy to connect together. But then I needed a split in the fourth down the front in the middle to help get it on and off. Done! Then there are these gussets at the bottom of each side to give it a bit of a flair. And to add onto that piping down both seams. So after getting the cut done and sewed up, I worked on the gussets. Got them cut and one attached to the center panel. Then had to stop and go back to the house as Mark was home.

So yes, progress is taking place and even under a bit of a less than ideal set up. See this picture with three outlets along that wall?


Three non-working outlets in a messy room

None of those three had power. I checked the other side and no power. Yes, oddly this space up above the barn has an outlet about every three feet along the walls. Not sure what was done up there before us. But what good are outlets without power? So after checking around. Thankfully the ones with the air conditioner and the fan in the other room were working. So I moved my mom’s sewing machine in there on a small wooden box and was able to sew.


Sewing set up

I have sewn in this manner with the machine in the other picture before so this was nothing new. Just not as easy as doing it on the table.

But can’t you see the excitement? Or maybe not, but that is a seam being sewn to connect two panels of the skirt of my Lena dress. Yippy! After I get the fourth connected (and I may do part of it by hand just so I get it all manipulated right), I will gauge the top of it and be ready to tackle the bodice and sleeves again. I’m pretty sure that none of that will affect what I’ve done on the skirt or vice versa. The last thing to do after the bodice and sleeves will be hemming and making sure the length is correct.

I have finally started sewing. So there is that for this project. And Mark is going to check the breaker box and whatever may be happening with those outlets.


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My Lena Dress – Not Forgotten

I just realized that I hadn’t recorded about the progress on my dress. I began this way too long ago, Lena’s Dress is on the Loom, but here we sit still with an unfinished dress. The cloth has been all woven and off the loom and the eternal wet finishing of a long piece completed. But, then things didn’t go so well. Not that they started so well – either.

There were problems with the beginning and some of it was broken warp threads and … well just a bunch of boogery things to drive a soul crazy.


One reason we cut off and started over again. What is going on with that white warp thread?

Yep, I ended up cutting off and rechecking the threading and starting over again. This time things looked much better alas was it “let’s drive her crazy” free? No, not even.


CHT goody bag gifts come in handy in this loom room

But we were moving and getting cloth that was working out pretty well. There were lots of little bits that made the wet finishing go longer as I fixed problem areas, but considering the start, we were happy.


A favorite sight. A cloth beam filling up.

Then we were getting near the end and I was hoping for another half yard at least but then things went really wonky and one bout on the back beam broke free. Not sure why they were so unhappy back there, but they decided being tense was too much and thus put a stop to my weaving. I wasn’t about to try and fix that for just an half yard more, when I should really have enough for the dress.


The end in sight! Alas, right before the freedom lovers broke loose.

So what next? The scissors came out and it was cut off. All that cloth was done with this first bit of the journey.


Off the loom!

What Next? Well, to make the dress like the original, I needed to weave a solid blue piece for piping, buttons, and false buttons for adornment. But I had enough of this battle so the decision was made to just use the same fabric for these other jobs as well. I knew it wouldn’t look as nice but I was tired of this project, and, for me, the worse was yet to come as I really don’t enjoy sewing. Alas, every time I tried to work on a mock up of the dress before cutting into this cloth, I got frustrated and then said to self, “I can weave better than work on this.” So slowly a solid warp ended up on the loom to weave the extra bits I needed. Now it went rough as well, but it took my husband walking past, me complaining, to come up with the simple reason for some trouble and soon that was fixed. So we got some length for the accent cloth.


Done as well.

So once I finished this, I was happy I went ahead with it. But now it is time to get back to that mockup. Yikes! Still not feeling confident about it, but I did talk to a lady who knows a bit about sewing, and so I have some idea of what I need to do next. I have a pattern that will work for most of the dress but really need to change up the sleeve a bit, so must go and work on it. Today! Maybe typing those words will help me get out there and at it. I can really put off a job that I’m not enjoying. I will head out into the heat and hopefully get something accomplished.


Fiddling with the mockup. Close but no award yet.


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Corded Petticoat

The warp from the back beam through the heddles and the reed ready to tie on the front beam. I love the soft light of just this one on in the dark.

I love the soft light of just this one coming down. Ready to tie the warp onto the front beam.

After finishing the dress, I felt the great need for a corded petticoat. Alas I searched and read and searched and read and got a bit discouraged on this as today those who make them for their early 19th century period dresses sew all the cords in. Can anyone imagine I being able to sew cords onto a piece of cloth in perfect rows? I certainly couldn’t see it coming out well and was more than discouraged with the feat. But then I read one little sentence that changed the whole project. It stated, in essence, that “of course the women of the day just went to the store and bought the cloth with the cord already woven in it and so they just had to sew up the panels together and hem and band it.” Eureka! I could figure out to weave the fabric and sew it then together. No sewing of each individual line of cord.

So then to figure out exactly what I wanted to use for this project, and I bought some 16/2 cotton and warped it at 30 epi. I had some cotton cord that I thought would work great for the top of the skirt. In viewing quite a few I had seen that many had a thinner cord at the top and thicker at the bottom. Oh to find something for the bottom. I wanted it natural and that was hard to find. I ended up getting some Jute. Though I did find some stuff that would have been perfect but it would have cost over $100 for just this petticoat and I just couldn’t justify the cost. There are times when one could just wish they were filthy rich with money to throw away.

I now had all that I needed for the project so started weaving a plain weave header. Wove 6 inches and then started the thin cord and wove cord with four shots of the 16/2 cotton in between. I wove this for 12 inches and then switched to 18 inches of the jute with 10 ends between each one.

Weaving the thinner cord.

Weaving the thinner cord.

Weaving the thicker cord.

Weaving the thicker cord.










I loved how fast this wove up, and it seemed to go pretty well except for a problem on the right selvedge that I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. I think I know now, after cutting it off, but for the weaving, I did figure out how to work around it. Oh, and it probably had its source in the fact that when I wound this warp on the warp beam I wound it backwards and after I tied on the front the brake didn’t work. So I ended up winding it all forward (6 yards) and then back onto the beam again the correct direction. First time I ever made that mistake. Hope to never do it again. But anyway it didn’t quite wind back on as perfectly as it was to start with.

After cutting it off I just washed it in the bathtub with my feet and tried to iron what I could of it and then hand sewed the side seams doubly and then used the machine for the hem and top which I just made a case of and ran a draw string through. It did come out a bit shorter than I thought it would. But despite that, it still seems to be quite good. I hope with another petticoat with it that it will be fairly smooth on the surface, but it will be closer to the bell shape that a proper skirt should have under than they do now. I think though if I get another insane moment though and want to do it again, I would make one all the thin cord and not use a thicker one. It would be a fairly quick project and of course the second one is always better than a first.

Corded petticoat finished.

Corded petticoat finished.

It will be interesting to see how a skirt looks with it under it. Oh and by the way. The bathtub is draining real slow since washing this. I didn’t think much came off the jute while in there but obviously enough that I better work on it soon or someone else will not be too happy at my procrastination.


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Period Dress – In Action

Well I did “finish” my outfit and so early Saturday, February 8th, I donned the dress and had Mark get a picture before heading out to Heritage Day at Jesse Jones Park in Humble.

Without apron

Without apron

One thing that can be said for it is that it does make one look pretty well… for better word – fat. The skirt is 3 panels and definitely enough fabric to make a good full skirt. Alas it is still too big in the waist and in this picture is hiked up a bit as it is too long where it sits. (1830s needs to be ankle length) I did learn quickly why frontier women called their handwoven dresses their “heavy dress”. When just holding these garments you definitely have an arm full. Now this was woven with cottolin and 8/2 cotton. I do know that handwoven dresses in the pass were done with thinner thread. (This was woven at 24 epi and I know one historical one that was around 40 epi though I don’t remember the exact count.) Alas those were women who could spin well. I doubt I could spin a thread that was thinner than what makes this up and it also be a good strong even thread.

The top is the shortgown pattern that I liked. It was to have pleats in the back but I was unsure to do them with this cloth and thickness and I liked the roominess so I did not put the pleats in back. Alas that meant that the neckline was a good bit wider than it should be. (Oh dear where is this headed?) It is the one shortgown that I have made that I did not have to worry one bit about the pins coming out in front. They were pinned closed and generally I loose a pin during the day. But it was a bit of work to get a pin through the two plackets and hence they went nowhere until I was home trying to push them back out again.

Near the end of the afternoon.

Near the end of the afternoon.

So for Heritage Day I decided that instead of being historically correct I would take my alpaca, which desperately needed spun, to spin for the day. And then I didn’t want to take my great wheel out as it was wet, my treadle wheel would probably not have been seen in Texas in the 19th century. Well, actually of course it wasn’t since it is a modern Kromski Mazurka. But on its side is the fact that it is designed after the old traditional wheels of Eastern Europe. So whose to say a similar wheel didn’t make it to Texas at some point in the 19th century. Then to top off my look and set up, I did manage to braid my hair over my head and it stayed. I really don’t like wearing my bonnet as my hair is more than it can easily handle. When there were lots of people around and I was looking straight into the sun, after it decided to shine after around 3pm, I did wear my hat so its brim could help me look at people while talking.

The apron I am wearing I have written about before. I wove it as well and it has some cotton weft that is handspun when I was learning to spin cotton. It starts with my first thicker yarn at the bottom up to the top with a nice thin yarn. So all in all I did get to show people what handwoven on the frontier could look like. I do know that some did take the time to weave Log Cabin pattern dress cloth so it is possible that some could also have ended up with a somewhat checked cloth like my top and then the striped skirt as well.

But in finality, no it isn’t done yet. I really want to take the hem up a bit more so it sits closer to the correct length, I also want to see about an inset to the neckline so that it isn’t so wide. You can tell that the left side just didn’t want to sit up on the shoulder of its own volition. And lastly, you can’t see it but the bottom of the shortgown where the sides meet needs a bit of help and after wearing it a day, I think I know what I want to do there.

So the final question is – Will I ever stop working on this outfit and declare it really done?

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Period Dress – IT IS FINISHED

My project is finally over. It is finished. Am I happy? Probably not as much as I should be. It totally is not as wonderful as I envisioned it, but, alas and alack, it was I making it so of course it was better in my head than it turned out. It went through many changes over its course of emergence. It had to jump through hoops to try and please its creator. But for now it is over.

I did envision at first a dress. Alas as the sewing progressed I realized that that was a bit too far for this material to come together well into a waist band. So it evolved into a skirt and Shortgown. Now with that evolution happening after the cloth was all woven, I learned my first lesson. When weaving for a project and with my brain and my often changing of the mind, weave more than you think you need for any one project or part of a project. As woven I should have had enough for skirt, bodice, and sleeves. Alas going to a shortgown meant that I was short for the bodice no matter what I did. And to top that off I have a bit left over of the sleeve material as they ended up just two smallish rectangles needed.

But enough on the bodice I do have a picture of the skirt.

The finished skirt

The finished skirt

Finished. Pressed. except for that little bulge that seemed to have defied the ironing. Finishing the skirt in and of itself was a job. The width around compounded by the thickness of the cloth just didn’t want to make a pretty pleated skirt. I asked Mark if I could gain four inches in my waist for it to be perfect and he said absolutely not. So with lots of fiddling and ending up using hooks for the closure and moving them in a bit, it does fit though still a bit loose. Will need a couple petticoats to help hold it up and chemise and other underthings to fatten me out.

Trying to get the waist pinned

Trying to get the waist pinned

There are quite a few weaving mistakes that went unnoticed. So there is “character” to it. Some I told Mark I did on purpose so that spot would have a nice accent to it. Not sure that will fly though. There is the band around the bottom of the stripes that actually covers the too wide of stripe on one panel. Two panels absolutely perfect and one with mistakes and too wide. I’m thinking there was some day in there I should not have been sitting at a loom at all. How did I not catch at least the width with all my careful measuring? Especially when two nailed it perfectly. But anyway, after a couple tries, we came up with a trim idea that worked and covers the too wide stripe. It looks perfectly measured whether it was or not.

I also did all the sewing by hand that would show so the only machine sewing on this was the lining panel to the hem. I then tacked it up by hand. The waistband is all by hand but as thick as it got, it would have cruel and unusual punishment to have even tried to make a machine sew it whether it showed or not. Then of course my felled seams down the sides were by hand.

The bodice doesn’t make a good picture by itself so will get one when I dress out in the outfit – maybe tomorrow. It is Heritage Day and that was the goal to finish this. But did you notice all that white? Do I want to wear it out where it is rainy, wet, icky, … Not sure I do but the forecast is better for Saturday so will see if the Shortgown only gets worn (with another skirt) or the skirt ventures out as well. It would be warm which is a plus.

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Period Dress – Skirt

It has been awhile since last posting but sewing up the seams of the skirt was a chore not that fun with such thick cloth. I love felled seams and did them on my other dresses (by machine) but am trying with this one to not have machine sewing show on the front so it was hand sew the seams. Notice that wording about machine sewing showing on the front? Well, I did dream of hand sewing the whole thing but boy does that take time that isn’t my cup of tea at all. So I did the felled seams. By hand. Three of them. Three panels to join. Which constitutes 6 complete lines of sewing top to bottom, bottom to top. Yikes! that was hard to keep at but alas it is DONE!

Panels of skirt all sewed together.

Panels of skirt all sewed together.

Learned something. Felled seams done by hand look a lot different than done by machine. I do so like the way they look by machine. But for these they are, in one sense, hardly noticeable  – that is on one side but with the thickness of the cloth it looks like a tube running down the sides on the other, but they are good and tight and not too bad – for me.

Can't see very well but a felled seam.

Can’t see very well but a felled seam.

The narrow stripe is the seam and you can see the end of it … well if you know what you are looking for. At least I’ll remember what these were like.

That done. It was much easier to move on to the hem. Did it all today. I had read about 19th century hems and how women then needed that hem and bottom of the skirt to be strong so they would sew in facings. Some (as for my 1830s time period) could be 12 inches or all the way to the knee in height. In looking the information I found over, I decided that actually the old ones were wiser than us today and it would be the perfect way to get a decent hem on the skirt, so into the fabric drawer I went in search of white cotton to use. I found several folded pieces, and being me, they each were made up of scraps I couldn’t throw away. So opening them all up I found one was rather long and of good height at its narrowest point. So it became the facing. I cut it. I ironed it. Desperately needed as who knows how long it has been in the drawer. And pinned it to the edge of the skirt.

White cotton that would work for the facing cut and ready to go.

White cotton that would work for the facing cut, ready to go.

I cheated on myself here and used the sewing machine. I hemmed the top of the facing and then boy, was that a fast run around the skirt. Those two long seams done in less than a couple of minutes. Wow! Then it was back to the ironing board and ironed up the hem and pinned it. Then it was sit with Les Miserables and start hand sewing the facing at the top to the skirt.

Skirt facing all sewed in.

Skirt facing all sewed in.

This went fast as well. It was easier to do than any of the other handwork I had done. And yes, it could have been a but thicker more substantial material for the job, but I wanted it white and out of the drawer so this is what it got and I think it will work well enough for its job.

Now on to the next step. And as is my want I have changed my mind again. (Not about which pattern will be sleeves or bodice this time though. That mind change has been enough already.) I do not think I will do a one piece dress but rather the more practical skirt and shortgown. I think it will also look better with the differences between the sections of fabric as then the skirt and the top will be the same colors but separate so as to not be so weird in their striped and checked look. Next steps will show what I mean.

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Period Dress – Wet Finish & Hard Press

Yes, I have finished the next step. I would be, should be shouting but my feet hurt too much for that. My new slippers are definitely warm but not great for standing for hours on a wooden floor pressing handwoven cloth. One day I will forget all this trouble but when I go back through this record, I know I will appreciate my dress once more for the time in it.

So once you take the cloth off the loom, it is time to give it a good wash and press. It did seem like so much when it was one long piece of cloth. But I cut it up in its component parts and zigzagged the ends and then threw them in the wash. Much easier done today than with my first cloth that I was scared of what would happen to it in that whirling machine.

Washed and ready to press

Washed and ready to press

This next step I’m sure we would all like to skip or else have a huge mangle in our homes to make it easier. But once the cloth is washed it is best to then hard press it 3 times. Side one, side two, and back to side one. This isn’t ironing at all. But set the iron on a spot hold down hard for 15 seconds and move over and repeat over the whole piece. But when you look at a piece as in the above picture, you know it can look better so you have at it.

Skirt panel all pressed

Top not pressed bottom pressed

Not as evident as in real life but the first picture and the top piece in second is wrinkly, threads still spaced out and rough looking. Once the pressing is done as in bottom cloth in the second pictures, the threads are all mashed together (proper weaving terminology) and compressed and a piece of cloth becomes one as opposed to many parts. I’m sure there is an object lesson in there somewhere if I take time to think.

Comparing pressed and unpressed

Comparing pressed and unpressed

Once again the top left is not pressed but the middle and right are. Don’t you love how the fold of the right one is so crisp compared to the unpressed one? This will remind me the next time I get a big project in my head that it really is worth the trouble.

So what does one do when pressing and pressing and pressing … and then pressing some more? For this project it worked out well that I had bought the DVD for Milltown Pride. It is a film put out by Unusual Films of Bob Jones University which is where I went to college. Now it was very apropos that I had it as the story takes place in the 1920s South around a textile mill. So as I was pressing my cloth, it was great to watch for the bails of cotton, seeing the weaving room and thinking, “that sure looks like a picture I’ve seen from Lowell, Massachusetts.” Hmmm…

Then a great bit about this DVD (for a project like this) is that it came with lots of extras on the disc so I got to learn quite about the making of the film as well as the period sites and remnants of the textile industry around upstate South Carolina and north Georgia (film sites used). And yes the weaving room was filmed at Lowell, Massachusetts. But then comes  that extra bit of knowing where a film is from –  it was great to see people I know in it. In fact one of the actors I went to elementary school with and haven’t seen since.

Finished stack with the film in the background

Finished stack with the film in the background

So the film extras lasted just about to the end of the cloth. And now with it folded and stacked – boy it sure doesn’t look like there is much there and definitely not enough for all the standing, sore feet, and pressing that I did.

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Period Dress – It’s Finished (Step 1 Anyway)

Did I ever expect to see this day? Well it did seem a long way off when this whole project began, but today I wove off the last of the dress warp. Amazing that my thread lasted till just having to force to get a shed to use up as much as possible.

The end of the warp and empty cones

The end of the warp and empty cones

This project used up quite a bit of yarn. I really meant to use up all the maroon and thought it was all on the bobbin, but after I was done I saw there was enough left for a few more passes. So do you go ahead and use it up or just say enough? I decided to say enough. My tension problem was getting worse, and I didn’t feel like messing with advancing the warp again as that would mean fiddling with tension again. Which would mean frustration again. And for what? Probably a bit of cloth I’d never use.

So here it is.

My dress cloth fresh off the loom

My dress cloth fresh off the loom

To the left is a section on skirt that I didn’t get a picture of on the loom. There are three sections like this with this stripe that will be around the skirt near the bottom. In the middle is the sleeve section and on the right is part of the bodice.

The relief I feel is immense until I think about washing and pressing almost nine yards of cloth tomorrow. I really hate pressing fresh woven cloth. So time consuming but so necessary for really nice cloth.

But still – IT IS OFF THE LOOM!!!!

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Period Dress – Sleeves Again

I’m sure we all change our minds part way through projects. I’m not the only one – am I? Well I did on my dress so despite the last time I wrote it was about weaving the sleeves on my dress – guess what? That section has now become the bodice of the dress and I am now – well – weaving the sleeves for my dress.

The current sleeves

The current sleeves

I’m sure it doesn’t look much different than the last section of sleeves, but I did make a change. The color stripes are now a half inch wide and the white ones are a bit wider but not by much. That being because when I realized I had gone 4 too many, I didn’t feel like taking it out and so it became the new pattern. I have had a bit of trouble of late with the tension. Though today in advancing the warp I discovered one problem. The tie on cord had broke and twisted the bout around a post. Seems weird that it only is happening now so must have happened after the majority of warp had wound off and it was free to make my life a bit trying. I have fiddled with the tension and things seem to be a bit better all the way across. Now that did have some to do with the change of the bodice and sleeve sections. I did figure that I could work with the slight spots of mishaps on sleeves easier than on the bodice. Also since I changed the size of the stripes, it was apparent that the thinner stripes would look better on the sleeves than the bodice and vice versa for the thicker stripes. At least that is in my head. But best of all look at this last picture.

The end is in sight

The end is in sight

Yes, the end is in sight. The warp is over the back beam. That is also good news as I am running out of all three of the yarns. The grey is out except for a few throws. The maroon has a little bit to go and I have three bobbins of white left. So once I see how far they go – hopefully we will be so near the end to have just a bit of play time. Actually I really think I have enough cloth for the dress woven but one can never be absolutely sure – can they? So on we are pushing and hopefully this weekend this will all go in the wash. Then yikes – the next big step in the dress.

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Period Dress – Weaving Sleeves

I wanted to keep a great running record of my dress I’m weaving and will be sewing for wearing at period events. Alas, though I have been weaving, keeping the record hasn’t gone so well. All the time I was weaving the skirt panels, I kept trying to remember to take pictures of the bottoms of each panel where I have a stripe going around. Alas and alack, I would only remember when that section of web was wound onto the cloth beam. Yikes! Will I ever get any pictures.

Well, today I was continuing to weave on the sleeves and remembered to take some pictures. 

Striped sleeves for the dress

Striped sleeves for the dress

Now the skirt has a grey, maroon, grey stripes around it near the bottom. Much thicker than the sleeves. Looks pretty good in my book, but of course you will have to take my word on that, as there is still a lot of warp to go and that is all buried on the cloth beam. But I did decide for the sleeves to make inch wide stripes alternating the three colors. Alas as I started it I didn’t care for the two dark colors being together on this part so inserted a white stripe between with the other two alternating. It will be crazy I think on the sleeves but will look good and period I believe.

It is crazy when you have this wonderful idea in your head and hopefully it will come to fruition looking as good. So far I am very happy with the warp and the weaving and it is going fairly fast. Love doing the inch blocks as they seem to go by fast and the inches fall away into completion.

Now if I am completely honest I haven’t come to a conclusion as to how the bodice will be woven. Still debating if it should just be a white weft all the way and match the rest of the skirt, should be striped like the sleeves and then matched up and drive a soul crazy, or if it should have just a couple stripes around the bottom like the skirt does but much thiner. Hmmmm… Still have some time to make the final decision.

I think I’m leaning toward the just a couple stripes around the bottom like the skirt. Sort of like a waistline to the dress. Divider of skirt and bodice.

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