Thursday, February 2, 2012

Victoria's Chemise Part II: Ribbons and Lace

I'm such a girl. I really love ribbons. I wear them in my hair, I add them to dresses I buy in the store, I tie them on my wrists, I put them on all kinds of things. There's just something so fresh and pretty about them! And you never feel fussy or overdone in ribbons. So when I noticed I would be trimming the chemise with ribbons and lace, I became very excited.

I discovered Etsy not too long ago. Yeah I know, I'm a little behind; but I really just love it for the SUPPLIES! I could look at sewing and crafty supplies all day, dreaming about different things to create. There are several Etsy shops selling ribbons and trim, and I felt to very lucky to find one selling antique ribbons and lace: TextileArtLace. In this shop s an amazing selection of old lace, trims, and silk and satin ribbon. I found this shop LONG before I began planning Steampunk Victoria, and I have been hoping for an excuse to order something.

The pattern I used for the chemise called for beading lace. I'll admit, I had never heard of it before. Now I know beading lace is a flat lace, with eyelet in the middle big enough to thread a ribbon through. It is actually kind of hard to find! My local JoAnn's has NONE (not surprising), and there are many resources for trim on the internet, but if they carry beading lace, they usually only have once style. I wanted something special, so I checked my favorite stores on Etsy, and lo, TextileArtLace had it! Since I was ordering the lace from there, I decided to get the ribbon I would need to thread through it from there as well. I love the bright rose pink of the velvet ribbon. It's just sooo pretty. And very little makes me more happy than pretty things.

Finishing the chemise was fairly simple once the trim came in. I cut the ribbon and lace into the lengths I would need, and threaded the ribbon into the eyelets.

Then I pinned it to the edge of the neck and sleeves and hand stitched it on. I decided to go with hand stitching because of how old the lace is. If I decide to take it off this piece and use it somewhere else, I want it to look nice.

Also, the lace was not quite as wide as I actually needed, so I had to press the edge of the neck down. Not too big a deal.

So now Victoria's chemise is finished!

I really love how sweet and girly it looks! I'm such a sucker for pretty! I really am!

The pattern called for button closures at the shoulders, but I thought bows would look so sweet, so I left enough ribbon hanging out of the trim to tie the top! I just adore this velvet ribbon!

I got the boning for the corset in yesterday, so I may have a post on the corset coming soon. I'm loving how it's turning out!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Victoria's Chemise

This was probably one of the easiest things I have ever made, yet it turned out so pretty!


2 1/2 yards of cream Lawn
2 1/2 yards antique beading lace
2 1/2 yards pink velvet ribbon

 Before I talk about how I made these three formless textiles into something pretty, I must say how much I love the materials. Lawn, while a little slippery to sew, is so much fun to shape into a garment. And I have fallen in love with antique laces and ribbons. I acquired these from the Etsy store: Textile Art Lace. I totally recommend buying from here for interesting lace and ribbons. They were in excellent condition, and got to me fast!

Being cotton, cutting wasn't near the chore it normally is. Of all things in sewing, I think I dislike cutting fabric the most. It's terribly tedious, and for now I have to do it on my floor since I have no cutting table, meaning sore shoulders!

When sewing with cotton, however, it ends up not so bad. I don't have to use anywhere near the care, or pins, I use when cutting out something silky.

Putting this together was quite easy. In fact, it took me basically one after noon to complete the whole project.

I sewed the gathering stitches into the neckline.

All four sleeve pieces were sewn to the front and back of the body, which was then sewn together.

Then the sleeve edge pressed,
And hemmed!

The most complicated part would have to be the band around the neck.

After folding down and ironing the edge, each piece was sewn together,
Then the long edge to be sewn to the back of the garment pressed down. I'd like to add I can't stress how much easier all of this is when every thing is pressed before you sew it together. There is no fussing with fabric to get it to sit where you want, once you press it, it will stay!

Then, pinning the right sides together, the gathers are taken in to fit. I just love to look of gathering like this! It's so pretty!
And the band is folded back over the front, pressed down and stitched together! You could do this by hand if you wanted to keep the stitches super invisible, but since I was going to put trim around the edge, I didn't worry about it and used my machine. This is an easy enough project to sew completely by hand if you are so inclined, but alas, I am not so inclined. Machines are just too convenient.

Here is the finished product without the trim!

At this point I could have added buttons to the shoulders to fasten it and left it. If I had only been planning this piece for function, I'd have done just that. But this being a piece I can wear in many different ways with a lot of the things I already have, I want it to be pretty. Next time I post, I'll show what it looks like with lace and ribbons added!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Interlude: A Dye Job

I've begun preparing for a convention I'm going to next month, and so am working on other things aside from the Steampunk Victoria. Last night I embarked on the nerve wracking adventure of dyeing a skirt I ripped off an old wedding dress from the 70's.

 (not quite like that.....)

Oh, let me tell you about this dress!! I found it at the Goodwill store two weeks before my birthday. I instantly fell in love with the skirt. It is so completely gorgeous!

However, it was also $50, and I had just gotten home from a two week vacation traveling to Salt Lake, New Orleans, Denver, and Boise. Needless to say, I felt a little guilty about spending that much money on an old wedding dress. So for once I put my self-gratification instincts away and left the store with nothing. But I obsessed over it for days; thinking about how I would take it apart and do amazing things with it. I just couldn't get it out of my head.

So my birthday rolled around and I got a $50 rebate card in the mail for my phone. Birthday money! On a whim I went to Goodwill, not even imagining the dress would still be there... But it was. Not only was it still there- it was half off. I snagged it so fast I must have looked like a contestant in a bridal store shopping spree.

However, when I got home I put it aside. I knew there were so many things I could do with it, but I had no particular project in my head; just vague visions of swishy, flowing skirts. It sat in the bag for several months until Tuesday, when inspiration hit! I was at the Mill's End looking for cotton for Victoria's chemise, when in the remnant section I found a yard of the most gorgeous amethyst purple jacquard. I had to make a corset out of it. And as I pictured myself wearing this gorgeous jewel toned bodice, a vision of swishy, flowing lavender skirts entered my mind. My next stop on my errands immediately became Joann's to snag some purple dye.

Now, I've dyed various things before, so this was no new experience for me. I did try a couple new things, and they all worked out really well.

The skirt is very light, but has several yards of material. It is made of three layers: one satin, one tulle, and one chiffon. It probably weighs about two and a half pounds, so I used three bottles of liquid Rit. I prefer the liquid, it disperses in water so much better.

I filled a large plastic storage bin with 140 degree water, the three bottles of dye and one tablespoon of laundry detergent. After letting the dye disperse in the water for a few minutes, I committed myself to my project and slowly immersed the fabric. I was a nervous wreck at this point, if this didn't work out, I would be ruining a beautiful piece of fabric.  But I was determined this would be success!

According to the directions, it is supposed to sit in the dye for a half hour, while being stirred consistently. It was insufferably hot in my tiny bathroom, and my arms started to ache after about ten minutes (20 more to go!)

When thirty minutes passed, it was time to rinse out the dye. You are supposed to rinse the fabric out until the water is completely clear, and it took a good twenty minutes to do so. I made a MESS of the bathtub, but it happens to be my luck that my bathtub is made out of some super unstainable material, and I should still be getting my deposit back when we move out...

Then it was hung up to dry for the night.

I tried as hard as I could to not get dye on my hands, but my efforts were futile. One of my fingers looks like I slammed my hand in a car door!

In the end I am euphorically pleased with my efforts.

I even tried it on today and danced around the house for a while practising my curtsey. This skirts just BEGS to be curtseyed in!

I may even grudgingly document making the blasted corset (I hate making corsets), since it is from the same pattern as the Victorian corset I'll be using for Steampunk Victoria.

Friday, January 6, 2012


It kind of happened slowly. Usually I am struck hard with an idea down to the details, and have a clear picture in my mind of what I trying to create as soon as I have a piece of fabric in my hands, or see a pattern that pleases me. I can picture in my mind the cut of the dress, how I want it to drape when I walk, how it will flatter my curves. Sometimes just holding a piece of fabric can make me feel as beautiful as I will feel when the costume is finished, because I can see exactly how it look. But not so with this dress! Though I can see it all now, it took a while to really feel it.

I picked this pattern up nearly a year ago, with the idea that I had never seen a steam punk dress that was reminiscent of victoriana before all the bustle periods. Joann's was having a pattern sale, so I picked it up and put it away, figuring I had a few more projects before I could even think about starting something so ambitious. I started a steampunk cowgirl dress, a cute victorian bustle coat (a coat that can go OVER a bustle, not one that HAS a bustle), a pretty, reversible bustier,  several lehengas, and a medieval bliaut before I started to think about the ballgown again. I knew I wanted to steampunk it, but I just couldn't figure out exactly how.

Sometime in the past couple months, I decided 2012 would be the year of steampunk for me. I would finish the cowgirl dress. I would make a skirt that would go with the bustier. I'd take another look at the ballgown. I pulled the pattern out again. The more I looked at it, the more the movie Young Victoria came to my mind. The dress began to take on Victoria's personality for me. I have seen a few steampunk costumes based off of real life Victorians, and I began to wonder if anyone had attempted the woman who GAVE HER NAME to the period. I consulted Google, my favorite adviser, and found... Well, I found a good deal of art. One costume claiming to be a steampunked Victoria, but was in a late Victorian bustle style I have NEVER seen a picture of or heard of the Queen actually wearing (Late period was waaay after Albert had died; she wore mourning and nothing that was extremely fashionable as her children were wont to do). There were several pictures of steampunk things NOT related to Victoria, and several regular pictures of the Queen herself.

I realized I had discovered a theme. So far as I can find, very few people have costumed as the Queen. I could make this dress IT. Pictures began forming in my head. Colors, trim, undergarments... I went to Etsy to find material inspirations and came up with several new ideas. I already had a great pattern for underthings:

And I decided I would make the petticoats and chemise out of up-cycled sarees. I wanted the costume to be colorful! There isn't enough color in Steampunk. I am also a bit of a nut for historical accuracy, I want this piece to fit the period and the character, but also have some of the fun that steampunk can add to such things.

I finally have a picture in my head. I don't have the fabric yet, but I can look at the pattern, and imagine how the bodice will fit. How the skirt will move when I walk. How I'll fit my hair and what jewelry I'll wear. I can look at the pattern and imagine myself in the dress. Time to start making it reality.