Saturday, November 16, 2019

Two Embroidered Pockets: A Recycle Project

I love making something old new again. Time and money always seem to be in short supply in my household so any opportunity to reuse an item, I do it. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to reinvent things...give them a second life. Our foremothers did the same thing. They were very creative in their need to reuse clothing for example. If a garment was outgrown, worn out, or out-of-date, it was likely repurposed. I often say on tours at Stephenson House, our ancestors were the original recyclers. 

In my stash of fabric, I came across an old embroidered vest that someone gave me.  Today that old vest was going to become two embroidered pockets. 

This embroidered vest was originally made in India. The needlework looks to be hand done or at least passable.

For many years, I've wanted to make a lovely embroidered pocket. Unfortunately, time is a commodity in short supply for me. This old vest was going to solve the 'time' issue. It would cut out the many hours it would take to embroider the front of the pocket, allowing me to jump right into the construction. And instead of just one pocket, I'll have two!  

Pockets worn by our foremothers came in a variety of shapes since each one was made by an individual. Today we can buy a pattern to make what would have been cut-out or drawn traditionally. Kannik's Korner has a nice pattern that includes five different documented styles. You can also get inspiration online from a wide variety of museum collections then draft your own. 

The first thing was deconstructing the vest. I removed the buttons and cut out the front panels as close to the seams as possible in hopes of salvaging as much of the usable fabric. The front section with the buttonholes was cut off since I didn't want to mess with closing-up the holes. The front of the vest was lined with nice tan cotton that could be used as lining for the embroidered panel of the pocket. Once deconstruction was complete, all the pieces were pressed.

The panel on the left is slightly smaller because it had the buttonholes and I simply cut them off.

Tan cotton lining from the front panels. The interfacing was cut off.

Obviously, the size of the pocket was dependent on the size of the deconstructed front panels. Kannik's pattern provided five pocket sizes. Since the pattern paper was fairly transparent it made it easy to lay each on the fabric to check for fit. This also allowed me to play with the positioning of the embroidery design. All but one of the patterns was way too big for my little panels. The 'Mid-18th Century, Italian' pattern was the WINNER!

The pattern for the Italian pocket fit nicely. The transparency of the paper allowed me to play with the positioning of the embroidery design. Since both panels had symmetrical designs the pockets would too.

Kannik's instructions were simple and easy to follow. I did make some minor changes. Since the deconstructed panels were large enough to allow for slightly bigger pockets, I cut the pieces about 1/4" bigger than the actual pattern. It wasn't much but I wanted to use as much of the panel as possible. The lining piece and back piece were cut the same size. Altogether there were three pieces cut for each pocket; front, front lining, and back.

Pocket front cut about 1/4' bigger than the pattern piece.

Tan lining was cut the same size as the front.

Both pocket fronts cut out and marked. Since the vest front had the same design on both front panels I was able to mirror the design fairly well. The blue line at the top of each is the pocket slit.

Once all the pieces were cut the assembly could begin. I marked the front piece where the pocket opening would be cut (see the blue line in the above photos). Kannik's instructions called for the slit in the front and lining pieces to be cut at this point but I decided to wait on this step since the embroidery might fray due to handling. 

The tan lining is placed on the bottom of the stack. The striped fabric is the back piece and it is laid on top of the tan lining. The last piece on the stack is the front with the right side down.

I stacked all of the pieces in the following order: lining, back piece and front piece with the right side down. This order will make sense when the pocket pieces are turned after sewing the side seam. The photo below shows both pockets stacked in layers ready for pinning.

All three pieces of each pocket are stacked and ready to be pinned. 

I marked my seam allowance with a fabric marker to keep my seam in its proper place as I sewed around the pocket.

A small spaced back-stitch was sewn through all three layers of fabric.

Another shot of the spaced back-stitches.

Stitching around the pocket is complete. Time to turn it.

Turning the pocket right-side-out. Since there are three layers to the pocket, turning needs to be done between the front and back pieces. The back and lining pieces are treated as one in this step.

The pocket turned right-side-out. In this photo,
 the lining is now in the center of the three pieces and the side seam encased between the lining and the front piece.

Now that the pocket is right-side-out the seam was pressed and the opening slit marked down the center front (blue line). I used the slit measurement provided on the Kannik's Korner pattern.

Following the center front slit marking, I cut through both the front and lining fabric. The back piece was not cut!

The cut edges of the front and lining pieces were matched-up and a running stitch sewn around the slit. This will help hold them together when the binding is sewn on.

Inside view of the running stitch holding the front and lining pieces together. The cut edge/running stitch will be covered with binding.

Now that the pocket body is sewn together, a binding piece was needed to cover the pocket slit. I made my binding out of the same striped fabric used for the back. To make the binding, a 1" wide piece of fabric, long enough to go completely around the slit on both sides, was cut on the bias. Cutting it on the bias will make it more flexible, especially when it's sewn and shaped around the curve in the slit.

The bias cut binding is ready for pressing. This piece will bind the cut edge of the slit.

I folded the binding piece in half lengthwise and pressed it with the iron.

In this photo, the binding is pinned along the cut edge of the pocket slit. 

A small running stitch (with a backstitch every so often) was sewn about 1/4" from the cut edge. I was careful to catch all three layers: binding, pocket front, and lining.

This photo shows the inside of the pocket slit. The binding has been pressed out and is ready to be folded over the cut edge of the slit. Once folded over the cut edge it will cover the stitching.

Binding is folded over the slit edge and pinned.  All the cut edges are now enclosed.

A simple whipstitch attaches the binding edge to the pocket lining. I tried not to go through to the front fabric and only catch the lining.

Binding is complete.

Binding from the front.

Along the top of the pocket, a basting stitch was sewn to hold all the layers in place. Be sure to go through ALL the layers: front, lining, back. This will make the next step easier.

I used a piece of leftover binding to finish the top edge of the pocket. The piece needs to be long enough to go the width of the top edge with at least 1/4" seam allowance on each side. In this photo, I have more than a 1/4" on the ends. Going through all the layers, I then sewed a backstitch a 1/4" from the top edge (not pictured). Once this was complete, the binding was pressed up and folded over the top edge.

The binding has been pressed up and over the top edges of both pockets. It can now be whipstitched to the back piece.

Two pockets complete. All that is left is to add a waist tie. I used some woven 1/4" tape purchase from William Booth Draper (not pictured).

All done! They work great with my petticoat which has slits on each side for easy access. In this photo, I am modeling them on the outside of my petticoat.  Normally I wear them under my petticoat. Since they are sewn to a waistband/tie, they sit on my hips for easy access through my skirt slits.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Making an Early 19th Century Mourning Dress: Skirt, Bodice, and Bib

Skirt, bodice, and bib are together.
The dress is starting to look like something. The bodice, skirt, and bib are sewn together but do not have any lace trim, buttons, or hem yet. The sleeves are underway but not yet ready to attach.  Drafting out the bib (or should I say experimenting) took more time than expected. It's actually a fairly simple construction but I had to wrap my brain around how to put it all together and make it work.

As stated in my two previous posts, the pattern I'm using for the bodice and skirt is Laughing Moon #126 Ladies Round and Trained Gown with High Stomacher Front, c. 1800-1810. The bib started out as a combination of two of the LM bib options with modification by me to resemble the inspiration piece sold on eBay as a study garment. Overall I'm pleased with how it turned out. The bib is not an exact replica of the inspiration bib but that's kinda hard without having it to draft a pattern from.

Anyway, here is the progress so far.

Attaching the Skirt and Finishing the Bodice
When attaching the skirt, I didn't follow the instructions on the LM pattern very closely. I've studied several extant dresses over the years so I ended up attaching the skirt similar to how our foremothers did it. Instead of sandwiching the skirt pleats between the bodice and lining, I sewed the back panels to the bodice and lining as one then pressed the seam toward the skirt. I did use the LM pattern's placement marks on the bodice to know exactly where the skirt panels needed to be set.  My choice in attaching the skirt is a personal one. I like the way the skirt hangs better when the bodice and lining are treated as one. This choice is by no means a reflection on the instructions included with the LM pattern, which are great BTW. Laughing Moon has excellent patterns and instructions but I have a tendency to add my own twist to things (or as some of my associates would say, "reinvent the wheel." It a form of self-torture. 😂)

Back skirt panels are sewn to the bodice (outer bodice and lining are treated as one) using the patterns recommended seam allowance of 5/8" then the seam is pressed toward the skirt.

Another view of the skirt and bodice seam.

Now that the back skirt panels were sewn in place, the bottom edge of the front bodice could be completed. A small cut was made on the bodice piece about a 1/2" behind where the bodice/skirt seam ended (I did not cut through the seam though, just to it). This cut is visible toward the left of this photo. 

The cut edges of the lining (brown fabric) and outer bodice (black fabric) were turned in toward each other and pinned. The lower edge of the lining flap (brown section in the photo above) was folded under itself and pinned. Now, the bottom seam of the bodice could be sewn together. The lining edge was whip-stitched (brown fabric). The bodice (black fabric) and lining (brown fabric) were prick-stitched together, creating a very flat seam. The front edge of the lining flap was also finished at this point even though it's unfinished in the photo. I folded it over 1/4" twice then whipped-stiched it down.

Here is a close-up of the cut made on the bottom of the bodice edge (two pictures above). The lower seam of the bodice is now complete but the cut area needed to be overcast to keep it from fraying.

Interpreting the Original Bib Construction
Time to tackle the bib piece. It took some thinking but I'm pretty good at Tangrams so it was kinda fun. I downloaded all the photos of the inspiration bodice I could find then studied them as close as my computer resolution would allow. My bid is not an exact copy but I'm pretty pleased with the final product.

Below are the four photos I used to figure out how the original bib was constructed. As mentioned in a previous post, this bodice was the only part of a c. 1800 gown to survive. It was sold on eBay but very little information was available on it.

The extant bodice date 1800.

Each side of the original bib appears to be made up of three sections with a centerpiece down the middle.  Without actually having the bodice to examine I had to make several assumptions on how it was put together. The assumption I went with was that each half of the bib was created separately and connected with the centerpiece. The buttons are purely decorative.

The inside view of the bib appears to support my assumption stated in the previous photo. The only lining is at the top of the piece and possibly the lower half. The snap is definitely a much later addition to the garment. For those who are unaware, snaps didn't appear on clothing until the late 1800s.

Side view of the original bodice. Such a lovely piece....sigh.

My Method of Attack! (aka The Weird Way My Brain Works)

After studying the photos as closely as possible, I decided to make each half of the bib separate. I used the smaller of the two gathered bibs in the LM pattern as a starting point.

I copied the LM gathered bib pattern (the smaller of the two gathered bibs in the pattern) then sectioned it into three pieces. The center section needed to be angled out to the sides, making it wider to the outside and narrower toward the center. Marking each section was important because keeping the sections in order was not as easy as you'd think.

The upper and lower sections cut out. A 1/4" seam allowance was added to the top piece's bottom seam and the bottom piece's upper seam. There was no need to incorporate additional seam allowances anywhere else since it was already figured into the LM pattern piece. The 1/4" seam allowance was very small but so was the originals. It could have been bigger but I chose to keep it narrow.

Three inches were added to the side of the center section when I cut it out. This could have been longer but I didn't want it to be overly full when all the pieces were sewn together. Seam allowances of  1/4" were also added to the top and bottom of this piece.

After sewing a gathering stitch on the top and bottom of the center section, I gathered it to fit the bib top and bib bottom sections. Here is it pinned in place and ready to be sewn.

This image shows the bib top and bib bottom sections pinned and ready to sew to the gathered centerpiece. This is the same image as above just flipped over.

All three sections of one half of the bib have been sewn together and pressed. The top section's 1/4" seam was pressed up and the bottom section's seam pressed toward the bottom. Another bib half will be sewn and the two pieces joined in the middle to create the full bib.

A small spaced back-stitch was sewn the length of each bib section, on the right side, to secure the seams and add stability. 

At this point, I realized that I hadn't added a seam allowance to the side of the bib pieces where the two halves would be joined (center front of the entire bib). In theory, the three-sectioned bib pieces could have been cut on the fold (like the LM pattern instructions) but, alas, they weren't I hadn't accounted for a center front seam....sigh.  So I had to punt. I ended up pinning the two halves together down the center front and running a small overcast stitch along the edges. The stitch was firm but not tight so that the seam could be opened up flat when complete.

I worked the tiniest overcast stitch possible in order to join the two bib halves together down the center front.  This join butted the two halves together without creating a wide seam. 

The completed center join once it was opened and pressed. A center strip will be added over the top of this seam.  The purpose of the seam was simply to join the two bib halves together with the smallest seam possible. You can see some of the overcast stitches holding the two halves together in the photo.

Both halves are joined together. 

I cut a 1" strip of fabric for the centerpiece of the bib.

A 1/4" of each side was folded over and pressed.

The strip was laid on top of the bib's center seam and pinned. The strip was sewn in place with a small whip-stitch hidden on the sides. A spaced back-stitch was also sewn the length of each side.

I wanted the bib to be lined but not with anything bulky that would affect the drape of the outer fabric. In my stash, I had some thin navy colored silk. I taped all the bib section pattern pieces back together and cut out a lining on the fold.

The sides of the bib lining and outer fabric were folded to the inside 5/8' and pinned. I prick-stitched the sides for a nice flat seam. The top edge was folded over to create a channel for a drawstring and pinned. A simple whip-stitch was used on the drawstring channel edge, being sure to catch all layers of fabric.

Close-up of the sides and drawstring channel before sewing.

The lining on the bottom of each side was left loose until the bib could be attached to the front skirt panel. Here is it folded up and out of the way for the time being. The bib was attached using the instructions for the LM pattern. The lining will be finished once the ties are attached to the front skirt panel.

The bib is sewn to the front skirt panel as seen from the right side.

In this photo, the skirt ties are being attached. These overlap slightly the section where the bib attaches to the front skirt panel. I followed the instructions from the LM pattern for this so I won't go into the details since they are explained very well in the pattern.

Once the ties were attached, the bib lining could be finished. The sides (left unfinished above) were prick-stitched to the outer fabric. The bottom of the bib was folded under and matched to the seam (created when the bib was attached to the front panel) then whip-stitched down.

Almost done. Not be bad if I do say so myself. 

The finished bib. Three button molds were covered in wool crepe then sewn down the center front. These buttons are purely decoration. Two additional fabric-covered buttons were attached to the bodice. Simple ribbon loops were sewn to the top corners of the bib. These loops go over the bodice buttons to keep the bib in place.

The Hem
Now that the bib was complete, I could put the hem in. This was going to require a helper so I went to visit my friend Dottie. Without her help, the hem would have been a disaster. After a couple hours of fussing with the line, the hem was finally ready to go in.

To help keep the skirt from draping limply at the bottom, Dottie suggested using horsehair braid. Skirts in the 1820s had a distinct bell shape. I could have stuffed the hem to give it shape but I took Dottie's suggestion and purchased some modern horsehair braid (1" wide). No, horsehair braid is no longer made of real horse hair but it used to be.

In this photo, I've measured, marked and pressed the hem 1" plus 1". The horsehair braid is folded into the first fold of the 1" hem then pinned to hold it in place.

Better image of the first hem fold with the horsehair pinned in place. Now it will be folded over again to completely enclose it.

A hemstitch the holds everything in place.

To be continued..........

Other posts related to this project

Making an early 19th-century mourning dress

Making an early 19th-century mourning dress: The Skirt

Making an early 19th-century mourning dress: Sleeves