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Friday, 24 January 2020

2019 in Review

Time for my 7th year-in-review post!
I've been a little slow with the blogging (and this post is late), and I still have two more 2019 garments to post about, but I think my posts have gotten better and more detailed this year.

In early spring I got a new job, doing alterations for a suit store. In November I moved out of my parents house and now live with a friend from school. (In my surface design stuff post from 2017 I have a picture of some muslin with silly dye paste doodles all over it, and my roommate is the classmate I did that with.) It's a small apartment, and sadly I couldn't bring my big work table, but I managed to squeeze most of my fabric & sewing stuff into my room.

I've gotten so much better at 18th century tailoring in the past year, and so I've put more effort into posting about the construction techniques. I'm really prod of how much I've improved!

Here's everything I made this year, in order:
My black and silver "practice" waistcoat has some fit issues and is a bit too short for 1730's, so I'm very glad I did it before cutting into my good quality brocade. I do really like the pictures I got of it though!

(Around this time I also did some costumes for a theatrical production, but didn't take photos of them because they were very quick and involved horrifying things like elastic and velcro. I did 2 large capes, 2 petticoats, 3 ruffled shirts, 3 neck stocks, and 3 red waistcoats. I also helped make clothes for a few marionette puppets.)
I still haven't got any good photos of this black corduroy coat, but I wore it a decent amount in the spring and fall. It was an unfinished project I had started about 2 years ago and it's chock full of regrettable choices (both in materials and construction).
I find when walking up stairs it's just a little too long, and when walking in general the lower part of the lining and the corduroy facing are too clingy, but it's still comfortable and very flattering.
A second flannel undershirt, which is nice and warm! I especially like wearing it around the house. It's quite comfortable to sleep in, and in the winter months I never want to take it off, so I should make more of them.
A shirt where I finally learned the nice & accurate way to attach fine ruffles! I like it a lot and have worn it a decent amount.
I made this brown wool waistcoat in March with the intention of getting a lot of everyday wear out of it, and boy have I ever! I've been wearing it at least 4 or 5 days a week this winter. (I don't like wearing my silk waistcoats to work - I have to use a supercrease machine and I do not want to get that rubbery goo on my fancy stuff.)
Piecing, piecing, wonderful piecing!
Piecing on the back, piecing on the front, and there's piecing on the lining too.
It was nice to use up some more of those old wool bits, and I love my linen cabbage back. It makes me feel so historical and economical, using up little scraps like that. I should make some more plain wool waistcoats, so as to have a bit of variety. And a sleeved one would be good, because the backroom in which I work is rather cold.
The monster outline, flowers, and dark specks of dirt are embroidered.
The rest is fabric ink, except for the gold bits, which are beads.
A painted & embroidered monster friend on a bit of cotton, with some shiny beads. He's currently tacked to the wall in my mother's studio.
A ruffly bed jacket. Another thing from The Pile that I finally finished! I intended it to be worn over sleeveless nightgowns in warmer weather, but I only have one sleeveless nightgown and it's wearing very thin and has some holes, so this hasn't gotten much wear at all.

I made a simple stuffed cotton fish for a friend around that time too.
A neck stock. Not blogged, because I didn't take any progress pictures, but I'll post about it next time I make one. It seems the sort of thing you ought to have multiples of.
My 1730's coat! I love it and am very proud of it!! I'd do the buttonholes a bit differently, but overall I think it came out great. Still no Fancy photos of it, but I'll see to that once I finish the breeches (which are coming along nicely). It was my first time doing a coat with proper 18th century construction methods, which I very much enjoyed. 100 hours well spent.
I made a simple watch chain this autumn too.
I love my black & white 1790 coat too! I think it's one of the best things I've ever made. Why I was inspired to make two wool coats in quick succession in the summer I have no idea, but I'm very glad to finally have a couple of nice coats. And to have finally made something with big fancy deaths head buttons, which I've admired on extant coats for so long.
And I actually did a photoshoot for once!
I'm pretty happy with my yellow striped silk waistcoat, but somehow it ended up wrinkly in the shoulders. I've had this problem with previous collared waistcoats, and I drafted a whole new pattern but they still came out a tad wrinkly. Next time I must do more basting and fitting before sewing the collar on.
Tiny little 2 coloured deaths head buttons!


I made a pair of simple felted slippers in bright green wool, which I didn't post about. They're made the same way as the monster ones (long since worn out). Just wet felted merino with a rubbery sole, for wearing around the house. This is the only photo I have of them (taken by my roommate) and I'm posting it instead of taking a new one because it's a nice picture of my roommate's dog.
His name is Ares and he's a very good boy. Much more quiet and polite than most dogs.
Finally, finally I made a 1730's waistcoat with that vintage piece of silk! I'm very pleased with it. (though as usual, the buttonholes could have been better.)

In December I made a printed cotton shirt, and the post about it is my most thorough 18th century shirt construction post so far.
And the last project of the year was these striped cotton breeches. I started them months and months ago and only finished them up at the end of the year. They were a test run of the new breeches pattern I drafted, just to make extra sure it fit before I made it up in more expensive material, and aside from needing a slight adjustment to the centre front they fit very well. They look pretty bad in such huge stripes, but I wanted to see the grainline clearly.

And that's it! Not exactly a huge number of garments, but a lot of them are very big time consuming ones, so I'm rather pleased.

Hmm, what else happened this year. I made a fall front placket tutorial which at least a few people have found useful. I also put together a post of 18th century menswear resources, which I need to organize better and post on here. I learned that you don't need to have a mobile device in order to post on instagram (though posting from a computer is a bit more limited), so I made an account there because it seems like that's where most of the historical sewing people are.

I posted some very specific memes about historical sewing and was shocked by the number of notes they got. A few people whose work I admire told me they admire my work, which was very exciting! I did a lot more hand sewing because I really like it. I bought a sewing machine around the time I moved out, but haven't used it very much.

My hairstyling skills improved a lot! (Thanks largely to that AD beauty guidebook.) Here's a 1770's hairdo I did in July.


Oh, I also got an embroidery frame! Not buying fabric this year meant I could spend some money on an embroidery frame, a couple of nice reference books, and a pair of shoes.
In September I did a residency at King's Landing which consisted mostly of me sitting in an empty room working on my waistcoat embroidery, and it was nice and I got a lot done. (I also got to go examine some things in the collections, which I should do a post about.)
Remember that embroidery sample from my 2018 in review post? I'm working on a waistcoat of that! I started on a homemade frame, but found it so awkward that I decided to invest in a proper one with rollers. I got mine from this etsy seller, but I think this is the original manufacturers site.
My frame with the partially finished waistcoat.
It's big and my room is cramped, so I have to fold up my ironing board in order to get it out and work on it.
I'm working away on that slowly, and will post more about it later.

I did a couple of alterations I had been putting off for ages, so things would look nicer for my 1780's photoshoot. I took the pleated ruffles off that shirt I made in 2018, removed the facing on the front slit, lengthened the slit a bit and gave it a nice rolled hem. I made new ruffles out of book muslin from Wm. Booth Draper (Beautiful stuff, 10/10, highly recommended!) and attached them with a rolled whip gather. I put them only on the front slit because I was in a hurry, but I might go back and add some to the cuffs too. I tried making a pleating board but I couldn't get it to work for the tiny little pleats, so I ended up doing them individually by hand, which is very tedious considering they wash out.
I also shortened and tapered those grey wool breeches from 2018. They were much too long, and a bit too loose around the knee. I shortened them by about 4 cm and now they're much better.

In my 2018 in review post I wrote out a list of goals for 2019, so lets see how I did with those.

"Finish the 1730's outfit. At the very least I'd like to get the coat, stock, and breeches done." Almost! I did the coat, waistcoat, stock, another shirt (one of 3 I now have that work for 1730's) and am currently about halfway through the breeches. I see I didn't list waistcoat on here, and I'm guessing that's because I had only just finished the black & silver waistcoat and hadn't yet decided it wasn't good enough to go with the green coat.

"Try crewel work. Even if it's just a sample or two." I did do that! It was just a sample, but I like it very much and I mean to do a waistcoat eventually.

"Finish that damn black wool coat that I started over FOUR YEARS ago." I... did not do that. I did start working on it again, but then I tried it on and realized that in the now 5 years since I drafted that pattern my proportions and posture have changed so much that it's never going to fit me, which really killed my motivation. It's very very close to finished, so I still should finish it, and either donate it to a theatre or give it to someone the right size & shape.

"Finish some other things from The Pile too. And ponder what to do with those few projects that were started very very long ago that I will never finish and have no use for." I finished the corduroy coat, the ruffly shirt, and the bed jacket, which were unfinished things from The Pile.
But I don't think it's much of a priority to try to figure out what to do with the maybe 4 or 5 unfinished projects I have from many years ago, because I'm so much better at sewing now, and am unlikely to finish most of them. I may repurpose the bits of them for something, but until then they can just wait in a box and I shan't worry about it. I think Cathy Hay makes a good point about clearing the deadwood from your project pile.

"Not buy fabric. (unless I need a little bit of lining or something to finish of a project) This is going to be a very difficult one, but I am determined to not buy any new fabric this year." It wasn't actually very difficult! I sewed entirely from stash fabrics this year, and found that it was actually really nice to finally sew up the things that I've been imagining. In January I went to a fabric swap and got rid of an Ikea bag full of fabric I had no use for, which made a nice dent in my stash.
I got a lot better at resisting new materials, thought a whole lot more about my stash fabric instead of other stuff, and went to the fabric store a few times for thread and left with thread and nothing else. I did buy 1 yard of green wool for the 1730's breeches because I didn't have enough coat wool left, but that was ok because it was needed for a complete suit.

So I made it 359 days without buying fabric, and wasn't even very tempted to do so. But then on Christmas night I made the mistake excellent choice of scrolling through a dazzling array of discounted secondhand silk obi on Ichiroya, and I found two that were amazing and perfect for early 18th century, and I had to order them immediately because they may not have been there 6 days later.

Now, normally I'm very good about doing without things. "I just had to have it" is a sentence I never utter.
But look at them! Holy crap!!
Gloriously huge asymmetrical repeats the likes of which I have never seen on any modern brocade!
Would you believe that each of these cost me CA$24?
They were the most expensive two, and the cheapest one I got was $8!
So I ordered those, and a few others that are also decently 18th century appropriate. Technically this means I broke my resolution to not buy fabric, but that's ok. This not-buying-fabric thing was about managing my stash better, and this was a very good choice for my stash.
The obi I made my 30's waistcoat out of is the only piece of silk brocade I'd ever owned in my life, and now I have a few more pieces of brocade! And I have fairly specific plans for them. So all in all I think I did a good job not buying fabric.

"Another Nelson undershirt, maybe a pair of flannel drawers, and a new pair of felted slippers." Did the undershirt, did the slippers, but didn't do drawers.

"Since it's the thing I did the worst on last year - more accessories." Wow, I did even worse with accessories this year. In 2018 I made a pair of gloves and a queue bag, and in 2019 I only made a stock. Oh, I suppose I did assemble that decorative watch chain too. Still, that's so little! I did start a pair of gloves and a neck cloth this year, but haven't finished them.

"Draft a new breeches pattern that fits well. And do better with drafting in general." I did draft a new late 18th century breeches pattern, and it fits! And then I used it to make an early 18th century breeches pattern. I did much better with drafting new patterns. I had to, because my old ones just don't fit anymore. That surgery I had a little over a year ago improved my posture so much that all my waistcoats from before that gape really badly across the chest. I can't remember exactly, but I think I drafted at least 6 new patterns in 2019.

"Ugggghhhh alterations." Did a few small ones, as shown above. I still have a few that need doing, but not many. I now do alterations as a job, and somehow I don't mind altering the suits from the store, but I still dislike altering my own stuff. I don't hate it as much as I used to, but there's still that troublesome feeling of "I finished this project, it is done! No more working on it" that makes it hard to go back and fix stuff. It was good to make those grey breeches fit nicely though, and to make that shirt more presentable, so hopefully I'll get a few more things altered in the new year.

"Sew with a plan rather than sewing lots of individual things that don't go together." I think I did pretty well with that! I ended up with a nicely coordinated 1780's/90's outfit, am almost finished a 1730's outfit, and my dark brown everyday waistcoat goes very well with my light brown everyday shirt.

"Do at least half of the 2019 Historical Sew Monthly challenges." Yes! 7/12, same number as 2018, but I did a lot more big projects this year. In 2018 I submitted some very small things, but this year they averaged 50 hours. The striped yellow waistcoat was my quickest submission at just over 25 hours, and the green coat was my longest at just over 100.

There are things I could have done better on, but generally I think I did pretty good in 2019!

Now, goals for 2020. I think I ought to focus these mostly on work habits and things that aren't specific garments. I have a lot of plans for things in my stash, but no idea what order I'll end up sewing them in.

  • Work on a bit of sewing before going on the computer, especially on my days off work. I find this makes a big difference in how I spend the rest of the day.
  • Try to have a better sleep schedule. That's also something that really affects how much sewing I get done. Currently I am doing a rather bad job of this.
  • Try metal embroidery, even if it's just a small sample. I've wanted to do metal embroidery for so long, and now I have a frame and don't have to worry about destroying it with a hoop!
  • Continue to use mostly stash stuff because I still have a lot to sew through. Buying a bit of fabric is ok, but I should do it only if I have plans for it. And try to not look at fabric selling sites unless I need something to finish a project, because pretty fabric has a way of making specific plans spring to mind immediately...
  • Buy a pocket watch, because somehow I still don't have one.
  • Make a video about death's head buttons! And hopefully other sewing videos, but deaths head buttons are probably the thing I've been asked about the most. I've never made videos before, but having recently discovered Bernadette Banner I realize that it's a fantastic medium for conveying sewing techniques. For the past 7 years I've been trying to document my sewing techniques here, but blog posts with still pictures are rather limiting for certain things, so I would like to learn how to film stuff too.
  • Do sketches of things before sewing them. It's not really necessary for my design process, but I don't draw or paint nearly as much as I should.
  • On that note, keep better records of projects on paper. I write the time and materials and everything here on my blog, but I should be putting it in a binder too, with swatches.
  • Keep track of exactly how much fabric I buy and how much it costs - also in a book with swatches.
  • Make an 18th century shirt tutorial. I've been meaning to do one for a while now, and I think I have a decent enough grasp on the construction to finally do so. It's something the internet is lacking!
  • Finish and publish those other posts that I have saved in drafts. There's one about buying less fabric, one about lots of weird extant waistcoats, one where I look at old projects and say what I'd do differently, one about the stuff I saw in the King's Landing collection, how I draft patterns, and of course the big resources post. I also still haven't posted those photos from the June 2018 road trip. Oh dear.
  • Do as many of the 2020 Historical Sew Monthly challenges as I can. I don't know if I'll get all of them done (I have no idea what to do for "Local" and may end up having to knit something) but since they've done away with deadlines this year it'll be so much easier to do more of the challenges! They're still posting inspiration posts monthly, but we can do the challenges in whatever order we want!
  • Finish the 1830's patchwork dressing gown.
  • Finish the forest floor embroidered waistcoat.
  • An extravagant 1720's suit, hopefully? I have most of the materials, and am feeling very inspired to do early 18th century right now. Plenty of other stash materials that could jump up and demand attention instead, so we'll see.
  • Maybe if I don't say "more accessories" then I'll actually do them this time?
  • I think this list is long enough now but one last thing I should mention is make some nightgowns. I really need nightgowns. All mine wore out ages ago and I've been meaning to make new ones forever, and it wouldn't even take very long.
Okay! That's a lot of things, and hopefully I'll do a decent portion of them.
Now I should get to writing up those last two 2019 garments!