Monday, 25 March 2013

Striped Muff, Finished

The muff is done. I decided to go ahead and use the grey hat, it's condition wasn't quite as bad as I had previously thought, even though it did look pretty creepy on the inside.
The grey hat, inside out.
Those black marks really made the inside look gross, but some of them were shaped like numbers, so they were just ink. The hide had a really scruffy texture and was thinner in some places than others, maybe whoever scraped it did a bad job, the brown hat's hide was much nicer and thicker. There was mold in the hat, but only a tiny little bit, it was easy to remove and the fur doesn't smell musty at all. I think the creepy ink marks scared me into thinking the mold was more serious than it actually was.

Speaking of the hats themselves, they are much better as a muff, both of them were way too small for my big head. I found the grey one in a cupboard in my Grandparents house, in a hatbox marked "Vivian Gibson- Hat" I think It was from the 60's. The brown hat was from a building with lots of stuff in it that my other Grandmother took me to years ago, apparently there had been a church sale and there were a lot of leftover things that they wanted to get rid of.
I cut both hats into 6 cm wide strips, they were impossible to get straight since the hats were curved. I cut them (very carefully so as not to cut all the way through the hide and damage the hairs) with an exacto knife. Then I arranged them on a table, trying to make them into a rectangle that was a little over twice as long as it was wide, with the fur pointing in the same direction, and trying to match the length and colour of the hairs. It seemed to be mostly successful.
A puzzle made of fur.
Once the placement of the fur pieces was figured out I started piecing them together.
A lot of the pieces had pointy ends so I had to cut a lot of tiny little triangles to make them all fit together.
One of many small triangles of fur.
I whipstitched all the fur pieces together. I also waxed my thread for the first time ever, which made the sewing easier.
Once the stripes were mostly put together, I started trimming them down to 2 inches wide with the help of a quilting square.
The stripes before trimming. See all the notches and bumps and wobbles?
I cut more little bits of fur to finish filling in the gaps and then sewed all the stripes together. Their edges were almost straight.
The outside of the muff skin, before the ends were added. The colour matching didn't go so well, especially with the brown.

I then sewed the two ends of the rectangle together, there was a lot more cutting and piecing. This was the first time I've ever made something out of fur and I must say, it's not a particularly friendly material to work with. Cutting is a very sneezeful business, the little bits of fuzz fly everywhere, I kept the vacuum cleaner right next to the table the entire time I was working on the muff.
The least fun part of muff construction. That white thing on the left is a piece of fusible interfacing to strengthen a particularly weak piece of grey material.
Then I attached the ends. The brown hat had a bit of a brim so there was a big strip of fur that curved in a very convenient way for muff ends.
The hat brim, cut in half.
The two halves were almost big enough to attach to the ends of the muff skin. I only had to add one small trapezoid of fur to each.
For the lining I cut a rectangle of black flannel 19" by 28". I know that cotton flannel is wrong for 18th century linings, but it's not fair if all the fuzziness is on the outside.
I found a muff workshop post that shows how to put a muff together with a tubular pillow and a separate, removable cover. Since my muff cover is of questionable quality (I tore one of the end pieces putting the pillow in) my pillow tube is permanently attached to the furry outer piece.

I stuffed the muff with a scratchy grey wool. It wasn't a very good fiber for felting or spinning so I thought this would be a good way to use it up. It was a really thin roving, which wasn't a very good form for muff stuffing, so I turned it into batts using Mama's drum carder. (Sorry for not asking permission Mama, but it was really late and the muff was so close to being done but I wasn't going to wake you up. I was extra careful to not bend any of the teeth.)
Roving being turned into batts. The batts are the pile of fluff on the left, the roving is the stuff on the right that looks like a brain.
I sewed the 28" sides of the flannel together(the only seam in the muff that's machine sewn) and wrapped the batts around one half of it. The wool had greatly increased in volume, which made this part very difficult to do. I scrunched the huge mass of wool down with one hand and folded the other half of the flannel tube over it with the other.
The stuffed tube. There will be a seam at this end, but it's just folded over on the other end.
I tucked in the ends of the flannel and whipstiched the pillow closed. Then I scrunched up again and stuffed it into the muff cover. The curved hat brim end pieces folded in very nicely over the pillow ends. They are whipstiched on too. This particular place was very awkward to sew stuff to so these stitches are rather large and crude. But big, unsightly interior finishing stitches are very accurate for 18th century.
Big, crude stitches. At least they aren't in a location where they will be seen.
Here is the finished muff.
See? The fur hides the lousy stitching.
The wool is so puffy that you can hardly see through the muff tube. It's sort of like a fuzzy blood pressure cuff.
The finished muff sitting on a table.
This is what the muff looks like when someone is holding it. I'm not wearing 18th century clothes in these pictures because the only other clothes I have from that era is underwear, and nobody carries a muff when they're in their underwear.
Me looking quite startled.

Me with flour on my shirt.
And now, Complaints! There are several problems with this muff. The most obvious one is the colour variation. This muff has very clearly been cobbled together out of lots of odd bits of fur and it takes away from the effect of the stripes.
Frankenstein's muff.
Another problem is that only most of the hairs point in the same direction, some of them are at a slight angle, but some pieces are going entirely the wrong way. Because the hat brim fur was pointing in the same direction all the way around the hat, and because of the shape of the muff ends, only one of them has fur that is facing the right way. I guess that's what you get for trying to make rectangular muff covers out of dome shaped pieces of fur. I'll have to keep an eye out for bigger, flatter fur things at thrift stores.
But the biggest problem is the shape. This was supposed to be a 1780s muff, and 1780s muffs are supposed to be square. like this one.

Gallerie des modes, 1781. (source)
  Mine is really, really rectangular. I think I cut the stripes too wide. On the other hand, if I had made the stripes narrower and the muff more square, it probably wouldn't fit both hands as nicely as it does. I used up almost all the fur, so there wasn't any way to make it bigger.
All the scraps that were left over. Maybe I can make pom poms out of them.
It's rectangularness isn't so bad. It'll work great for the 19th century, and for some of the decades that come before the 1780s. I did manage to find one 1780s fashion plate with a muff that didn't look square.
French fashion plate from 1787. (source)
 The muff on the right doesn't look square to me, although I'm not entirely certain, since it's on an angle. Not everyone would have had up to date muffs all the time anyways, I'm sure plenty of people were walking around with 1770s shaped muffs in the 1780s. I don't know if they had stripes though. The earliest image of a vertically striped fur muff I can find is from 1784.


The challenge: #6, Stripes.

Fabric: A rectangle of black flannel 19" by 28", from Mama's stash.

Pattern: Guesswork and a quilting square.

Year: 1780s, or very early 90s, at least that's what I was going for.

Notions: An unknown amount of scratchy grey wool, from the stash. Two old fur hats, their origins are listed earlier in this post. One small scrap of fusible interfacing, also from the stash.

How historically accurate is it? Well, the fur and wool are real, the overall construction is probably decent, and it's mostly hand sewn. Other than that I don't think it's very accurate. See Complaints, above.

Hours to complete: Approximately 20

First worn: March 25th/13. Can you use the term "wear" with muffs, or do you say "carry"?

Total cost: $0

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Green ensemble, part 2

The corded panels are done! Time to write a post on them.
Also, I've finished the line diagrams.(click for a larger view)
Front view of the completed bodice.
 You can see the wobbly lines more clearly now. I still haven't decided what to do with the sleeves, so I left them plain.
The inside of the bodice.
The right side of the diagram shows the pieces after they have been sewn together, and the seam allowances of pieces 1,3, and 6 have been sewn down to the canvas part. The left side depicts the finished bodice with seam binding, bias tape, hidden lacing, and hooks & eyes. It doesn't lie completely flat on the table.

There are 6 corded panels, 3 on each side. Each panel has an "a" and a "b" pattern piece.
(From left to right) 2b,2a,4b,4a,5b, and 5a.
 The "a" pieces are cut from the canvas, so they are the size of the finished panels. The "b" pieces are cut in the dark green thin cotton. The canvas pieces have staystitching on all 3 sides. I forgot the staystitching on the first panel and the edges got kind of warped.
The "a" and "b" pieces for panel 5.
As you can see, the "b" piece that is cut out in fabric is much wider than the "b" pattern piece.
The "b" pattern piece, and the piece that I actually cut out.
This is because the cording is very bumpy, the canvas lies more or less flat but the thinner cotton on top has to cover a lot more surface area. Since the cording is curved, it draws in top fabric from several different directions.
I tried to sew up panel #4 by cutting the pattern pieces out exactly. This is what happened.
Not good.
There wasn't enough fabric on the left side of the "b" piece. The gouge went past the seam allowance which meant I had to do this piece over again. Thankfully, I wasn't sure if I had given the top piece enough extra fabric, so none of the other pieces were cut out yet.
It wasn't a total waste, I cut the ruined panel in half and used it as a sample for sewing two corded panels together, which turned out very well.

While the pieces have a lot of extra on the sides, they still have to be cut the same on the bottoms.
The bottoms sewn together, trimmed(no notches!), and pressed right side out.
Then it's time to sew lots and lots of cords in.
The cord is first eased into place with a thumbnail and cut, leaving about 1 cm of extra length on each side. The first cord in each panel is the most difficult one to sew in smoothly.
Thumbnails are very useful.
The cords are sewn in with a zipper foot, using a very short stitch length (less than 1mm) and no backstitching. I've found some tutorials that tell you to sew the channels first and then pull the cords through, but Leimomi's zipper foot method makes much more sense. It would also be impossible to do curved cording using that method.
My other hand would be there too, helping keep the cord in place, if it weren't holding the camera.
 After 2 or 3 cords, the top fabric starts to wrinkle.
3 cords in.
This isn't too big of a problem, it just means you have to be more careful with the sewing. The "b" panels are cut on the bias, so they can still cover the cords smoothly.

Another thing that happens is the rough edges of the "b" panels and the ends of the cords stick out over the edge of canvas and obscure your view.
From the top, you can't tell where to put the foot anymore.
So the edges must be trimmed every 3 or 4 cords, with a pair of very sharp scissors, to make sure they line up with the edge of the canvas.
Trimmed.(after 3 cords)
After you have removed the ends of the cords you have to cut away from the canvas at a very wide angle, to make sure there is enough fabric to cover the cords that haven't been sewn in yet. The amount of fabric they pull in is surprisingly large.

After 18 cords.
The wrinkles are calming down now. The more cords you sew in, the less curved they become and the smoother the fabric gets. You can also see that there is an enormous amount of fabric on one side and very little on the other. It did manage to cover all the cords, but was dangerously close to the edge of the canvas at one point. I found the amount of excess fabric needed for the sides extremely difficult to judge.
By the time the panel is almost done, the cords are getting very straight and are not curved at all. At this point the top fabric may run out but this is not a problem at all.
Oh dear, panel "b" was too short.
Simply cut a little rectangle out of scrap fabric.
The rectangle goes on like this.
Sew it on with the zipper foot, right up against the previous cord.
The rectangle of scrap fabric is attached.
 Trim the seam allowances.

Trimmed very short, only a little bit wider than a cord.
Then continue sewing. The seam where the new piece was added will not be very noticeable at all.

2 cords after the fix. Quite inconspicuous, especially since this part of the panel will be almost completely covered when the bodice is done.
 There probably aren't very many cords left. 5 or 6 maybe.
Panel #2, for the left side, finished!
Th cords take forever to sew but they are worth it. They provide both stiffening and awesome texture.
Texture! like furrows in a ploughed field.
The panels are done now. I didn't keep track of the hours because I don't want to know how long I spent on these darn things.
All 6 panels. Done. Finally.
I hope this made sense. I found these quite difficult to explain in words, which is why there are so many pictures in this post. I wrote it in a "how to" sort of voice because I am considering shrinking the pattern pieces down, drawing them on little grids and posting them here.(and also because I get sick of saying "I" all the time.) It depends on how the bodice turns out.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Bum Pillow

It's finally finished. Actually it has been finished for almost a week, but I kept forgetting to take pictures.
For the pattern, I just drew a big crescent shape that I thought would fit around my lower back. It seems to have worked.
For the inside layer I used a stash fabric of unknown origin and fiber content.

The  pieces being cut out.
 I sewed it together by machine, leaving a space for the stuffing. I stuffed it with polyester because a big bag of it came with Grandmas fabric stash and I want to use it for things where it's synthetic horribleness will be hidden away under many layers of fabric.

Lots of nasty polyester being hidden away.
A close up of a bum pillow being sewn shut by hand.
After being stuffed, the pillow was quite round.

 I pinned a couple of cords to the ends and tried it on to see how it looked under a petticoat and the results were just as bad as I predicted. The skirt was puffed up way higher than it should be, and the shape was wrong. I don't have pictures of this, but I did draw a diagram.

A cross section of the "before" and "after" silhouettes. The pillow without shaping on the left, and the pillow after shaping on the right.
I used some thin cotton cord to sew a few rows of big stitches through the pillow so that it would fit around my real bum and give the skirt the proper shape.

From the top
 Now it's shaped more like a croissant or a travel pillow, which is why I'm calling it a pillow instead of a bumroll, it's not remotely roll shaped.

(If you would like to read about such things, Demode has a remarkably long article on bum padding in which 8 different incarnations of bum pillow are tried on 2 different sized models. Definitely worth looking at if you're planning on making one.)

Bum pillow as seen from the side.

For the ties I used a piece of petersham from my stash, it was just the right length and was already hemmed at both ends.

In order to cover up all the dimples and the ends of the ribbon I covered the pillow with a second layer of fabric. I tried a thick drapery fabric, but it was too thick. It got lumpy and wouldn't wrap nicely around the pillow structure. I chose a green quilting cotton instead. Now it looks like a giant pea pod. (I apologize for the slight blurriness and weird orange light. My Media Explorations: Photography class just ended and I had to return the super awesome camera.)


You can see the shaping better now that it's smoother.

It sticks out like a shelf, my younger sister found this very amusing.
This is the silhouette I'm trying to get, I'm almost there.

Magasin des Modes, December 1789. (source)

The bum pillow, under a petticoat from the side. Almost the right silhouette.
Clearly I need more petticoats. They will have to have a slight train so the back of the skirt slopes downward at a steep angle instead of being perfectly vertical. They need to be longer in the back anyways, look at how uneven the hem of this one is when worn over the bum pillow.

An uneven hem.
 Here is an amusing quote on bum padding. c.1785

"Ladies, old and young, at this period, wore preposterous pads behind; and, as if this fashion wanted a counterbalance, enormous false bosoms were contrived of puffed gauze, so that they might be compared to pouter pigeons."
                                                               - Henry Angelo, Reminiscences

What do you think, might I be compared to a pouter pigeon?

A pouter pigeon. (source)