WEEK ONE – May 24- May 28.
Getting Everything Together!
The first few days of a projects are all about planning, gathering materials and preparing your space to work. Some people don’t mind running errands in the middle of a project, but others like to do as much of their shopping for materials up front and have as much as possible on-hand when building a dress.
So for the first few days, it is all about gathering the patterns, tools, fabrics, and trims you’ll need for this project.
Let’s Start with the Pattern: Laughing Moon Pattern #126 – Ladies’ Round or Trained Gown with a High Stomacher Front c.1800-1810
Laughing Moon Mercantile is a well-respected small business that specializes in historic patterns. In fact, they were around prior to many of the other historic pattern companies and when the “Big 4” patterns still offered the lamest and most basic of costume patterns. They are perhaps most famous for their “Silverado” and “Dore” corset patterns. I have never made this particular pattern but it has rave reviews and I am excited to embark on it with you!
If you are interested in sewing along you can get the pattern at these places:
From the Laughing Moon Mercantile itself: CLICK HERE
Via Amazon.com: CLICK HERE
There may be a few other sources online, if you’d like to do a search, but buying from the source to support the pattern’s creator is great. And buying from Amazon works if you’re in a hurry!
THE ESSENTIAL LIST OF What You’ll Need:
- The Pattern (see above!)
- Fashion Fabric – the fabric from which you’ll make your actual dress.
- Lining Fabric – fabric for the inside of your dress.
- Sewing Machine
- Basic Sewing supplies (straight pins, scissors, thread, tape measure, etc)
- Mock Up Fabric – practice fabric.
- FYI: Mock-Ups are sometimes called a “toile” or a “muslin”, but the word Muslin is often used as an adjective for fashion fabrics in the Regency period. We’ll just call it a “Mock Up” or “MU” if we’re feeling lazy.
- Some Ribbon or as the pattern calls for “2 yards 3/8th inch linen or cotton tape”
- Straight pins or “Dorset Buttons”
- Trim…or not (not listed on the pattern envelope)
Any Historical Costumer™ worth her salt is going to say “Natural Fiber! mumble mumble mumble SILK! Mumble LINEN mumble Wool!” And I do, in theory, agree. Nothing drapes and behaves better than natural fibers that are similar to those used “In Period”. And nothing is more expensive.
So for us here in “occasional costume adventure”-land there are some lovely synthetics that will work just fine. Any woven fabric with a soft fluid drape will work well. Knit, stretchy fabrics are NOT good for this, being too clingy and heavy. Obviously breezy-flowy cotton voile is a dream, some light crisp silks, or soft and light “tropical weight” wools work beautifully. They are all gorgeous and very close to what was used at the time. But there are other cheaper options that are quite lovely, too. Examples: Soft woven rayons, straight-up bleached cotton muslin, some fancy poly gauzes, and fake silks have a wonderful hand. Even certain quilting fabrics will work.
What to avoid? Stiff organzas and heavy weight upholstery fabrics, any synthetic that feels too plastic-like, or something that is too springy will not give the best result. I have made Regency dresses from everything from an old bed sheet to cotton velvet and the quality of the fabric that the successful ones all had was a nice drape (meaning it hangs well with lovely folds), but not a clingy hand (it doesn’t stick to you too much).
You’ll need anywhere from 4 ¾ to 6 yards of fashion fabric depending on your size and the width of the fabric you are using. If the bolt is 30 or 45 inches, add a few yards to your calculations just to be on the safe side. 60 inch bolts of fabric or more are great for making long skirts.
Where to go to make this purchase?
Of course there are many wonderful online shops. I really like Dharma Trading for their combed cotton lawn fabrics – perfect for that iconic Regency white gown.
Renaissance Fabrics is a small business that has tons of beautiful natural fiber goodies.
If you are in the Fresno area, Hancocks is going out of business so there may be some good deals there. And there is always JoAnn for the basics in cottons.
My absolute FAVORITE place in Fresno to get fabric and trim is A&A Textile. It is like a slice of the LA garment district in Fresno. A warehouse like shop where “digging” is encouraged. There are some GREAT CHEAP things here. Call ahead to make sure they are open.
In the Bakersfield area, we recommend F&M Fabrics. I also always look for fabric at thrift stores and estate sales.
The pattern calls for unbleached muslin. Any pleasant feeling plain weave cotton or linen will be fine. I would go with 100% natural fiber on this, for comfort and ease mostly. See Mock Up Fabric section for a cost-cutting tip.
Mock Up Fabric:
Listen kids, I don’t do mock ups of skirts. I am not that costumer. SOMETIMES I’ll do a half length (short) or half body (just the left or right side but full length) skirt mock up but only if it is complicated or I am all like, “HUH?” The one exception being if I have incredibly dear or rare fashion fabric, then I do it ALL. But if you’re comfortable with cutting out and pinning together skirts, you probably only need to mock-up the bodice of the dress.
If you are detail-oriented, especially nervous, or want to use the mock up as a slip or underdress for a future gown, you are going to want to mock up the whole dress and shell the money for some good ol’ cotton muslin and do your thing.
That being said a GREAT way to save money on this step is to go to thrift store and get yourself some flat sheets for SUPER CHEAP! Like under $10 for TWO at most places (which is what you’ll need) and a heck of a lot cheaper than JoAnns even with that coupon.
Tape or Ribbon:
Linen and cotton tape can be purchased on line for reasonable prices (I am not going to include links because you can Google the stuff just as easily as I can). I almost always use that narrow single faced “spool o’ ribbon” that comes in 3 yard spools for cheap. Why? Let me count the ways:
1: I have SO MUCH OF IT! (truth)
2: It is smooth and goes through casings really nicely
3: I can melt the ends to prevent fraying and to give a little hard tip that looks nice
4: It is STRONG, it has never broken on me EVER
5: It both knots well and sturdy and yet makes a knot almost always unpickable.
My love affair with this stuff is real, I should give it its own post.
(image Spool o ribbon)
Straight pins or Dorset buttons:
I love how specific this is…”Only DORSET buttons will work on this gown all other buttons are UNWORTHY!” I happen to have some white and cream “Dorset look” buttons that I’ll be selling, but I BET that there are a multitude of flat, old-timey buttons that would work for this gown. We’ll explore some of those options which will be varying levels of historically accurate.
Also we’ll look at what an eighteenth century pin would have looked like and see if we can come up with any similar…Or if we even care.
You know why I like trim? I think it makes the dress look “real” in a fast and often machine applied way. It also gives one an opportunity to hide sewing boo-boos, highlight personal assets, and finish garments in a way that looks purposeful and is fast and easy. This is an era where trims run the gamut from demur tucks and self-ruffles all the way to elaborate braiding and beading.
Find several yards of something that appeals to you and who you want to be at the dance. You do you.
Yes, I think a garment looks More Real™ when finished by hand using period techniques. And yes, I can tell when looking at a gown whether it has been hand-finished. But choosing to do something by hand or by machine all comes down to why you want the gown to begin with.
What are your goals in making this costume? If your end-game is perfect historical accuracy, good on you. This tutorial is gonna suck for you. My end-game here is gown that feels historically accurate in “essence”, looks nice, and helps tell my character’s story at this upcoming dance. I come from an Acting/Theatrical costumer background. Your goals may be different and that is cool, too. I just want you to have a good time at the Rout, so make this costume in a way that will help you do that.
Wow! Trim got deep.
Sewing Machine, Sewing Supplies
The basics, get ‘em anywhere from Granny to a Big Box store. That being said, there were no widely used sewing machines in the Regency era, but I am for sure going to use one because I have exactly ZERO inclination to hand sew a garment. So the sew-along will include machine sewing with hand finishing as needed.
Double check your stock on the following (or pick up at the notions store, if you’re just starting out):
- straight pins (can be regular or pearl headed)
- needles (hand sewing and spares for your sewing machine)
- a soft measuring tape
- some decent sewing scissors (I like having a large and small pair)
- needle threader
- seam ripper
- pin cushion
- decent thread – major manufacturers run better through your machine. Get a basic white for your Mock Up and a color to match your fashion fabric.
- Fabric marking pen/pencil – marking your mock-up can help you remember how to fix or change it. (But using a regular #2 pencil on your mock-up works just as well).
- Iron and Ironing board
Also: Check your sewing machine if you haven’t used it in a while.
- Remember how to thread it and fill the bobbin.
- Open the case (if you can) and blow out the dust from inside. Oil it if necessary – they sell machine oil and cleaning kits at JoAnn.
- Make sure it has all of the parts you’ll need and note down the needle number so you can pick up spares.
- Give it a test run on some random fabric to make sure it still runs smoothly.
I’ll be updating fairly regularly as there is only a MONTH until the Rout (have you got your tickets??), so we will need to get started shortly.
Next Week: Preparing the Pattern and Undergarments.
If you decide to participate in the Sew Along please feel free to share your progress in the comments, link to your own blog, or to share it on our Facebook event page .