Monday, September 7, 2015


Sometimes, you just need a simple project to get lost in to make you feel better (even if you do make some Really Stupid mistakes along the way).

My September project for Historical Sew Monthly is on hold until I can get more supplies. So I decided to cut out the front piece for my Halloween costume and start trimming it. Except, without knowing how much I'll have to remove for the hem, I'm not sure how long the bottom ruffle will be. Not to mention, every fabric I found for the bottom ruffle didn't look good. I couldn't trim it until I knew how long it'd be when I put it together and I couldn't put it together until I trimmed it. Ugh!

That's when things took a turn. One day I came into work and found this:
Black tulle with a red foil blood splatter pattern. It would be perfect for the ruffle, with some plain black fabric underneath. And then I remembered, since this dress is going to have a train, I'm going to need a trained petticoat to go underneath it. And the best way to test a skirt pattern is to make it as a petticoat. I could find out how much hem to remove and how much train is acceptable.

So yesterday and today I made a petticoat. This became a "use up all the leftovers" project, because I didn't have enough muslin for the whole thing, but I could just manage the last piece on the remainder of the red gingham from my wrapper. I inherited a lot of my sewing stuff from my grandma, including a number of full bobbins in colors I'd never use. So I used them up. Whenever I'd run out of a bobbin, I'd just grab another in a color I don't care for or I don't have the original spool for, pop it in, and keep sewing. I emptied 4 bobbins on this project. With the curve of the hem, I decided to do a bias tape hem facing, and pulled out some wide olive bias tape I made WAY too much of for a previous project. When I made the waistband I stitched the front and the facing together and then stitched it to the petti, only realizing AFTER I'd stitched all the pleats down that I'd put it on backwards and the seam allowance was on the OUTSIDE. Sigh. Instead of ripping it out I trimmed the seam and covered it in premade bias tape that I had maybe 40 inches of. I also used two patterned green buttons that were the only ones in the button tin for the closure, but I sewed them on the wrong edge and had to rip them out and resew them. I'll add buttonholes later when I can corset up and try it on  . . . and trust myself to sew the holes in the right spot.

Since my inspiration image had a lot of floof, I added ruffles to the back using some organdy I got a great deal on. I know that Jennifer of Historical Sewing waxes poetic about organdy, but I'd never used it. It's stiff, super stiff, and really thin. I worried it would be difficult to manipulate and my machine would cause problems like it normally does with thin fabric. Neither of these things were true. My machine handled it beautifully, and I found it easier to manipulate due to it's ability to hold a crease.

The finished petti:
Side view. The gingham is the back panel. It is super long for photos and drags about 6 inches behind me.
Back view. The bottom ruffle is hanging off the bed. The top three ruffles are sewn straight across, lined up with the pattern. The bottom one curves with the hem. The top ruffle is 1 width of organdy, the middle two are 1.5 widths, and the bottom is 2 widths. It made for easy measurements and allowed me to use the selvages at the sides.
Buttons, after I redid them. You can also see the grey bias tape used to cover the seam allowance around the outside of the waistband.
Bias hem facing. The bias tape was unfolded, stitched down, folded to the wrong side, and then stitched at both edges to prevent it from showing on the right side.
Close-up of different thread colors.

I now have a beautiful petticoat that is fluffy beyond all imagining, and I know what to do for the skirt itself. Plus I used up a bunch of bits clogging up my sewing space. Huzzah!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly #8

Also known as the Norwegian skirt of learning.

My mom is 100% Norwegian. Her father and her mother's mother immigrated here. Her heritage has always had a subtle influence on her, in the foods she eats and the way she decorates her house. After taking a social psychology class and doing a report on cultural beliefs and upbringing, I can see the influence in how I was raised beyond just eating lefsa* at Thanksgiving and pulling the batteries out the smoke detector before making krumkake**. I've always had an appreciation of all things Scandinavian, particularly the everyday art like rosemaling and the embroidery inspired by it.

Which is perhaps why I've had a deep passion for the bunad, the Norwegian national costume.

(All images found from simply Googling "bunad")

A few years ago, my Aunt Thelma passed away. I didn't know her (in fact, I'm not sure I ever met her), but I'd always assumed she was one of my maternal grandma's siblings. Grandma came from a large family, so it made sense. My mother was mentioned in Thelma's will, and so a copy of it was sent to her . . . along with a family tree. Thelma was not my grandma's sister, as I'd always supposed. She was the half sister of my grandma's mother, Elise. Apparently my grandma's grandmother was married, widowed, and remarried, resulting in four children total. She also had the most ridiculously awesome name ever: Gunhilde Haldordatter. Gunhilde means "battle maiden" and Haldor is a male name meaning Thor's lightning (datter means daughter, showing linage)***.  With such an amazing name, I've always wondered about her and her life.

I have the clock my grandma's parents got as a wedding gift, and they were married around 1910, I believe. Assuming Elise married at 20, for easy math, that means she was born around 1890, putting Gunhilde as a young adult right through the 1880s using lazy math and assumptions, but it gives me a place to start.

Wikimedia then gave me this:
Christian Krohg - Albertine "to see the police surgeon" created between 1885 - 1887
Ignore all the beautiful bustle era confections going on in this painting, and focus instead on the sad woman being escorted by the police officer into the back, and also on the woman standing on the bench to the far right. Both wear peasant garb, black skirt with or without apron, long sleeve blouse, cross tied shawl, and a head covering. Comparing the waist size and torso shape of the woman with the officer to the fashionable woman in pink, we can tell she is wearing a corset, and is either bustle-less or wearing a very small pad. Her skirt, most similar to what has been copied into the modern bunad, is what I wanted to make. I don't know if this is something Gunhilde ever wore, but it is what I wanted.

Being that are no free patterns for bunads and information on them is extremely limited, I based mine on images around the internet, the fabric requirements from this blog, and this guide for making a dirndl (since they are similer). I used cotton flannel instead of wool, since this was a trial run, and bought 4.5 yards instead of 3.5 because my fabric was narrower. This was my first mistake. That made for far too much skirt and ugly pleating. I also made it for my normal (non-corseted) waist.

I cut off two strips for the waistband, and then cut the rest of the fabric into quarters and sewed the panels together selvage to selvage to make the skirt. (I left a few inches unsewn at the top of one for the opening.) Then I took some gingham remnant I got for a steal and stitched to the waist.
Herringbone stitch to cover raw edges
Modern bunads are cartridge pleated at the back. The gingham with its perfect quarter inch squares became the guide for the pleating.
Up, down, up, down
And pulled tight
The gingham saves you from having to mark the fabric, and provides extra body to the fabric being pleated. The pleating was too deep, and the bottom two rows were removed later. Another problem was not cartridge pleating enough of the fabric. I pleated half of the total skirt, meaning the knife pleats on the front had to be very deep to take up the rest of the fabric. I should have taken another yard at least.

I stitched on the waistband, and was so thoroughly out of love with this project that I will not be hemming it or adding a closure.
From the front (hips!)
Side proves that the woman in the painting wouldn't have needed a bustle pad if the back of the skirt was cartridge pleated.
Close-up of beautiful cartridge pleats
And close-up of ugly knife pleats. The wide box pleat in the front ended up off center because there was sooo much fabric to deal with, and I accidentally put the opening on the right side.

*lefsa is a Norwegian potato tortilla
**krumkake is a crunchy cookie kinda like a pizzelle. I think they taste like a waffle cone.
***Name translations may be wrong, however please don't correct them unless the truth is even more awesome than I believe. :)

The breakdown:
 The Challenge: Heritage and heirlooms

Fabric: 4.5 yards black cotton flannel, black and white cotton gingham
Pattern: My own, based on what information I could find
Year: 1887, but is probably correct for a long range of time periods
Notions: Black cotton thread.
How historically accurate is it? Cotton should be wool, and the hem should have a facing, but it is entirely hand sewn. 60%?
Hours to complete: Somewhere around 20 hours
First worn: Never, and probably never will be, but it was a good learning experience.
Total cost: About $20. The flannel was on sale, the gingham remnant was only about $1 and I had all the thread on hand from other projects.