Sunday, January 27, 2013

1860's Civilian Waistcoat & Cravat

 Since I took this on awhile back and didn't finish it right away...I decided to use it as my UFO project for The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge I'm participating in. It seems to be a common trend for me... as usual this exploit was full of many firsts.

For the front I used cotton velvet from and the back is silk taffeta from Fashion Fabrics Club. (*Note to self* they have great price on it and its perfect. No slubs, crisp, and lightweight.) The lining is white cotton. As far is notions go the only thing I used were the button forms and buckle for the back.
 First time doing welt pockets. Quite the experience. Velvet was an all around pain in the neck to work with. I'm definitely not planning on rushing into another project involving the stuff. I've never really made anything with it before so it was a true learning affair. lol
 The pattern is based on Past Patterns: Single Breasted Shawl Collar Waistcoat. One of the main reasons I went for the shawl collar is so it would perhaps look a tad bit more "formal" (yes, I know different fabrics were the main factor of formality). I'm eager to try one with notched lapels... or whatever the PC term for them is....
Both items were made to be accurate for 1860-64.
 These buttons, arghhhh. I thought they were going to be the end of my sewing career. :p lol It took me hours to get them together...the velvet was just so bulky and obviously frays like bonkers. Not to mention the buttonholes - since I was worried about getting them made without the front turning completely turning to fuzz...I, first, machine sewed where the holes would be. Then cut them and hand sewed regular buttons holes. Wasn't quite the charm I was hoping for. The machine stitching often pulled off the fibers when I was whipping around it. In the end I prevailed and they didn't look half bad. ;)
 Unfortunately I have absolutely no clue how many hours it took for me to complete. I've never kept track of such things. I would say its been one of the smaller, but more time consuming things I've made. Between the welt pockets, covered buttons that wouldn't cooperate, 80% of it being hand sewn and bagging it backwards the first 2 times it probably took over 30 hours... 
The materials cost around $35, I think. My sister ordered everything so it may not be exact on the dollar, but close enough. ;)  Not sure when its going to be first worn as this was for a client and it probably won't be till April or so...
 I would say its about 95% historically accurate. While I did my best to find the most accurate materials - the 5% missing is due to the difference in fabric from the 19th century and today. Otherwise the cut, techniques, etc are period correct. Even the cravat is copied from originals. ;)

 I thought this segment about clothing etiquette was incredibly helpful for knowing when it would be proper to go with/without a waistcoat, etc....
 "Clothing etiquette will depend a great deal on the type of impression, the personality of the gentleman, societal perceptions of the appropriate attire for the situation, and the types of activities the gentleman is engaged in.
 In the most general form... vest, coat, and cravat/neckerchief are needed for situations deemed more formal... going without is accepted in situations deemed less formal. If the gent is seen "about town", he is probably on some business he deems moderately formal, as in.. he'll be seen by persons upon whom he'd like to make a good impression. A vest/waistcoat and coat are important for that occasion. If he is engaged in heavy labor... or at a picnic on a hot day... or in the evening hanging around home... less formal situation and the coat definitely can be and the waistcoat/vest may be left off. He may choose to replace the coat and sometimes a vest with a smock/ work-shirt for heavier or dirtier tasks or sporting events (including hunting, which leads to the number of militia troops and early war uniforms that include them as a key uniform component) and still be deemed "decently" dressed. Remember that the farmer who may wear a work-shirt to tend his fields and animals would don a waistcoat and coat before squiring the Mrs. to shopping in town... or meeting with the bankers concerning his loan for next season's seedlings... or certainly a dance, supper party, or church service. The young dandy might start the lakeside outing in his nice linen dittos, but remove his coat to row the boat or take his afternoon nap in the sun or carry the basket.
 Among the very working-class, one does see pictures of gents with just a shirt, coat, and neckerchief (no vest/waistcoat in sight). One can also find pictures of gents in waistcoats/vests but without coats... but often there are "occasion indicators" in these pictures as well... a camaraderie of men, interrupted work, at work, very hot day, and such, that tell us when they thought this appropriate." Taken from this post.
  Not necessarily part of my UFO, but it went to he same gentleman. Thus I was inclined to include it in this post. It was the first time we'd done a pretied cravat. Pretty much just winged it. So not much to say about it. :p Its made up of 3 seperate peices. The bow, knot, and band. Each peice is sewn up then all are attached to each other...It buttons in the back and is made out a lovely, forest green silk taffeta.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Endeavors in 1860's Letter writing.

 Over the summer Michelle was asked to write 1860's style letters for some soldiers. They were to be used as "props" per say, at an event, during mail call. It was a super fun project - we had alot of fun executing the task at hand. We'd love to have the opportunity to do it again, maybe without such a close deadline this time tho. ;)
 She might disagree, but from my observation thinking of a diverse, variety of proper things to write - was infact, the more difficult task at hand. For the actual content. She found several original letters online and also got some books from that library that had copies of originals as well. Those definitely helped with the level of creativity... :D Since then I've been saving any I find around for future reference. lol
 As usual several of fabulous, living historians jumped in and offered wonderful advice and resources in various forms.
Since we only had a couple days to put them together we weren't able to get our hands on any paper that was particularly special. We just had to use regular printer paper. She tried to make each one alittle bit different from the others as you can see...she even made a CDV for one. :p
Jasper supplied me with 'stamps', which we printed out and then Michelle cut around every little bump on the edge. :D Thank goodness for our little stork scissors. lol He also sent the template we used for the envelopes. (Yeah, I think he's the best too. :D lol)
Miss Stephanie has several fabulous posts on the subject Spencerian handwriting. (One of which the above diagram came from). Dip Pens and Period Inks. Spencerian Ladies' Mid 1800's Handwriting Part 1 and Part 2. The latter 2 were incredibly helpful!
I'm told ink can be obtained at Hobby Lobby, Micheals, or Dick Blick. Higgins Eternal Ink decanted into a period container works. Also that John Neal Bookseller offers the most accurate steel nibs available along with all the materials to learn proper Spencerian penmanship (its noted to use the straight shaft pen and not an oblique, but same directions).  
Onto paper. Paper does not have to be white...I was advised you could cut down sheets of yellow legal pads to about 5X6". I'm hazarding to guess college ruled would be the way to go as that's more the proportion I've seen in originals. Any cotton bond paper will work for the period which can be found at walmart. Also laid paper from Sullivan Press, but I hear they are not always easy to order from. And lastly one can cut Strathmore laid resume paper in ivory down to 8"x10"... folded this becomes 5"x8" booklet form that is most common for letters. Goldenrod resume paper for the envelopes, as that was more common than ivory. And that's the wrap...
 Sorry about the sad lack of posts lately. I'm currently trying to adjust to life. Having just graduated from high school and not having a job, etc. I'm attempting to find a healthy balance, but still be productive. Easier said then done - for me at least. I promise I am doing alittle sewing...Several of the things I've been working on are for The Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge I'm participating in. So I'll be posting things when I finish - them coinciding with the deadlines. I'm hoping it will help me get back in a grove...

**Disclaimer** Not claiming to be a pro and I can't be held responsible for the accuracy of said information. This is merely me compiling information that I've found to be helpful.