Mrs. Parks Sew-Along: Mrs. Bennett finishes the dress (just in time)

from Mrs. Bennett

It’s 3 pm on the day of Mrs. Parks’ infamous ROUT! If you don’t have your tickets, you can still attend and purchase your tickets at the door! Mrs. Parks and Lady Strong are hosting tonight’s Assembly for the benefit of the community, so please take advantage! It’ll be great fun! Remember, costumes are admired but not required!

I left off my Sew-Along diary at having completed my mockup and lined the pieces for the bodice.  That is typically the point at which I really start tackling the sewing. I don’t have much time before I am due at the dance, so I’ll give you as quick an outline of putting together the gown as possible:

Friday: I put together the pieces of the bodice and tried it on again. Sometimes additional adjustments need to be made with the actual fabric.  One of the best pieces of advice I can give is that if you are working with a very high quality fabric, listen to it. It will tell you how it wants to hang and how it wants to be crafted. In this case, the two darts I had in my mockup were less successful with the actual silk and lining I was using. So I played with it a bit and made the appropriate adjustments in the panel.


I also noticed that I had set a sleeve in backwards (remember me saying that this was super easy to do?). So I too my seam ripper out, took it apart, and reset it.  Then all was right as rain. Once I saw how the bodice was going to look I got really excited about the dress. There is always a point when putting together the actual dress that you can see what it is going to do for you (or what it might not) and you get excited (or a little disappointed). In this case, I got excited.

I got so excited I decided I had to do a little extra than I used to do for dresses, and work at finishing the inside of the bodice.  I had some burgundy double-folk bias tape in my stash that I finally broke out and used. I reinforced the armscyes (a place that can often come apart pretty easily), and the bottom of the bodice all the way around, so that there was something substantial to hang the skirt pleating off of. I’m pretty proud that I took this extra step, as this dress is probably the neatest dress on the inside that I’ve done in a long, long time.


Once all of this was done, my phone alerted me that I had 24 hours until the Rout. Oy!


My dear Mr. Bennett and I went for dinner and upon returning I tackled the skirt while he watched the first Star Trek movie. Here’s the thing about the skirt: A) I didn’t feel like I had the time to get super fussy with it, and B) turns out I was about 8 inches shy of fabric to manage the full skirt.

So I improvised. Here’s the piece of skirt I had left. . . one long rectangular piece.


(I don’t have pics of this section because I was pretty much pushing to get this done before going to bed!)

  • I looked at the instructions again and saw that I needed a front piece and a back piece, with the front piece being about 1/3 the width of the back piece. So I cut a third off and called it the front.
  • In the back piece, I measured the slashes on the pattern piece and duplicated that on my rectangular skirt back piece.
  • I went ahead and sewed the front and back pieces together along the long, vertical seams.
  • Then I attached the front bib piece to the front skirt panel, adding in a few small pleats to give the rectangular piece of fabric a more circular shape.
  • At that point, I shifted my focus to the back. I figured out how far on the bottom of the bodice I would need to attach the skirt for full coverage. Marked those spots with white pins. Then proceeded to pleat the skirt onto the bodice from back to front, pleat by pleat.
  • Then I sewed the pleats into the bodice. At this point the skirt and dress was mostly complete.
  • I tried it on and noticed a weird place of pleating in the back center, but decided I could live with it. It was midnight, so I scratched out on a notepad: HEM! TIES! TRIM! IRON! to remind me what I needed to do on Saturday before the dance.


I had a long night because of some family matters to tend to, so I awoke bleary eyed. Luckily, some friends invited me out for breakfast and I went and got some coffee in my system.

Upon returning home, I looked at the pleats and realized that the weird pleating in the back center was an easy fix. So I fixed it! – Morning eyes are often way better at fixing problems!

At this point, it was a matter of the finishing details.  I hemmed the skirt and added the ribbon tie at the waistline, as well as the trim at the neckline and sleeves.


A note about Trim. Trim is awesome for covering a multitude of sins in your sewing. If you have places where your seams don’t match up or where the hem on your sleeves looks terrible, putting some trim on it smooths over those rough edges.  Braided trim is also very good for strategic spots for using straight pins – thick enough for the pin to get good purchase AND to tuck that sharp end into so you don’t stick yourself!

IMG_8130 IMG_8136

And it wouldn’t be a successful gown if I didn’t run out of bobbin thread right as I was putting the last length of trim on my second sleeve – literally, 8 inches of sewing, and the bobbin is like, “Yo, time to stop everything and change me!” Awesome.


But change it I did. And the gown is done, but for a light iron.

Here’s the inside of the bodice with the pinned “liner”:


And here’s the front and back – as best as I can get it with the mirror selfie:

IMG_8135 File_000 (1)


And there’s the Sew-Along!  I hope to be able to admire your fashions at tonight’s dance!

All the best,

Mrs. Bennett


Mrs. Parks Sew-Along: Mrs. Bennett: Mock Up Fitting

from Mrs. Bennett

What week is it again? The dance is in three days? and I’m sick again? (I’m always sick with something right before an historical event!). Lordy.  “I’m behind” doesn’t even begin to cover it!

So, yes, I’m home with a sinus infection that came on mid-week. Yesterday, I took it easy, but did promise myself to keep going with my new Rout dress. (I could probably fake up something with one of my maxi dresses from my closet, if need be. . . but I’d really like to complete this project!)

So I moved forward with the mock up and bodice yesterday. I had the mock-up pieces cut out so I started by doing a quick “self-fit”.

14-6Note 1: Fitting is nearly always easier with someone else’s help. They can make pencil marks more easily than you can and pin things together more accurately. For more elaborate costumes, I have Mrs. Parks help me fit (she’s quite a genius at fitting figures). But for basic bodices, a self-fit can be done in a few key places. 

Note 2: If you are a larger woman with some fabulously unruly curves, learning to do a basic self-fit will come in handy. Most patterns will need to be adjusted for figures that resist straight lines. I nearly always cut out the largest size possible of any pattern and then fit to my body-eccentricities as needed. For example, I’m ample and round of bosom,  am quite short-waisted, and I have fairly round, sloping shoulders and thick arms. But learning how to fit just a few key spots helps me look put-together!

IMG_8085First, I sew the mock up parts together. In this case it is the front/side lining, the back piece, the shoulder straps, and then (later) the front/bib panel.  Then I try it on and take a look at what’s going on. First thing I notice is that the front lining portion fully overlaps so I pin it together. I decided I’m going to stick with this method instead of using ties. I really like using straight-pins as fasteners in Regency wear. Maybe its because I’m lazy!

The first issues I see are two very common ones for me. #1 the bust needs some darts on the sides to help it fit better to the side of my bosom. The darts help the fabric create a round, 3D shape for my very 3D body.  #2 The shoulders have what I call “gaposis”. Often shoulder patterns have a bit too much up there and I have to trim them.

IMG_8086  IMG_8087

So, I create the dart in the side and affix it with a pin. Then I take a pencil and mark the bottom of the dart on each side. I mark this so that when I take it off and remove the pins, I can remember exactly where and how deep I made that dart. I’ll transfer these marks to the lining I actually use.

For the shoulder, I took up the slack and put in a pin and marked where the seam should go with a pencil. After I take off the bodice, I take the mock up to the sewing machine and sew in the darts and take in the bodice along the penciled in line. I try it on again and the issues seem as fixed as I’m going to get them.

I then go ahead and take the front/bib panel and test its general shape. Remember, I am vaguely inspired by the shape of this gown, but I don’t think mine will be exactly like it. On the mock up piece, I add the darts to the bottom of the panel, as instructed in the pattern and pin it to my person. I then play with darts or gathers in the top of the panel to achieve a shape I like. I’m going with only two darts at the top. I like the general shape and coverage of the panel. So I mark with a pencil all of the darts on the mock up.


Next is the sleeve test. Sleeves are notoriously difficult for a lot of people to set. It is very easy to get it turned wrong side out or set in backwards/upside down. Don’t feel bad if it happens to you!  I’ve learned to turn the bodice inside out, tuck the sleeve piece INSIDE the bodice, and pin the sleeve in that way. After it is pinned in, when I flip the bodice back to right side out, the sleeve and bodice are both right side out. It’s just how I remember to do it.

The other thing I do is decide where I want the sleeve seam to start on the bottom portion of the armscye. In this case, I lined up the sleeve seam almost with the side/back seam. I then put a white-pin at the top shoulder of the armscye so I know better show to space the pinning. I tend to put more gathers or pleats toward the top. I then play with gathers or pleats on the sleeve until I know how I want to do it. (I didn’t play much on this one because I was running out of steam!)


IMG_8096          IMG_8097


At this point, I have to take apart the mock-up with the seam ripper – reverting it back to just four individual pieces. I remembered to trim off the excess at the shoulders first so that the pattern piece reflects the alteration in my self-fitting.  These four pieces are now the REAL pattern pieces for my own, fitted bodice.


I cut out lining for all four pieces and marked where things like darts would be added. (I like to line the whole of the bodice because it think it supports the silk better, feels sturdier on my body, and smooths out the appearance of lines from my undergarments – like corset lines.) After I cut out the linings of those pieces, I went ahead and cut out the silk pieces as well.


I attached the lining to the silk pieces and set them aside for assembly.

  • Fabrics I’m using: Garnet silk dupioni fashion fabric. Garnet cotton for lining.

A few lazy hacks I’m doing on this pattern.  Please note, I’m absolutely positive that there are very real reasons for the methods this pattern gives for the things I’m omitting. I think it has to do with the piece being so much more historically accurate and just for good sewing practices. I, however, am making a costume for a dance, and at this late date, I’m making this in a way that makes sense to me. My costume goal was to get this done and for it to look nice enough for a Regency party. If your goals are to have a garment of clothing as close to historically accurate as possible, please ignore this section. In fact, ignore me altogether!

  1. The pattern has a side-front LINING piece and a BODICE SIDE piece. I believe the lining goes under the bodice side piece and extends out further, so that there is a section of lining from which the ties extend. Like so:
    bib lining

    But I will be using just the side-front LINING piece. I will add my fashion fabric overlay to it ALL THE WAY across so there is no lining readily showing. Similar to this:

    Except, mine will overlap a bit in front so I can just pin it, instead of adding ties.

  2. I’m not using the skirt ties pattern piece and will instead use ribbon.


I’ll be working on the dress more on Friday, obviously! Whether I’m still sick or not!

Tootle pip from Mrs. Bennett!


NEXT UP: Assembling the bodice and affixing the skirt!

Go here to read the full Sew-Along Blog!



Mrs. Parks’ Sew-Along: Mrs. Bennett’s Week 2.2 – Procrastination Station

Hello Regency Sewists!

Have you ever wondered why we use the word “sewist” instead of “sewer”? Well. . . really, just look at that word “sewer”. . . it can be mistaken for something entirely unpleasant. So we say “sewist”.



procrastinate_kittyI’m a little behind on the Sew-Along there is NO DOUBT. There are all kinds of reasons for it. I mean, life happens, right? But if I’m honest with you (and I shall be), all of those reasons are really just a bit of procrastination on my part. I often get busy with other things (which are important, too), but then use the “I’m too tired/need to relax” excuse to put off my sewing.

As I’ve gained a few decades of adulthood under my belt, I’ve discovered that my particular brand of procrastination stems from insecurity and a deep fear that I will be unsuccessful in the project set before me. This also happens to me when I should be preparing for a play I’m directing or when I avoid writing projects. I don’t know where it comes from, but I know it to be the truth.

However, since I know this about myself now, I can at least remind myself that once I get started in a creative endeavor, I will feel stimulated and energized. And I might actually be quite successful if I take it one small step at a time.


Tonight, I was very tempted to stay in front of the television with my Negra Modelo and chill. I would have told myself that I could make up the time this weekend.

But do you know what actually made me get off my duff and open up the pattern? The fact that my dear Mr. Bennett had a task HE was procrastinating on. He has a gig this weekend (one of his one-man shows on Friday night), and I knew he was putting off going over the script to re-memorize it.


Use the Buddy System!

But he was as happy as I was to sit in front of the tv with HIS Negra Modelo and hold my hand. So after watching one hour of tv (“Home Fires”), I said that I REALLY needed to go over that pattern, hoping it would inspire him to take the time for the script. And then he said, “Yes, I should look over my show.”

So, since I needed to nudge him to work on his project, I nudged myself. It can be very helpful to have a spouse who is also creative and needs to carve out time for projects!



IMG_7976My goal tonight was just to start small and get into the swing. So I only wanted to read through the pattern book and just cut out the actual pattern pieces. And finish my Negra Modelo.

In the pattern book, I circled the numbers of the pieces I needed for the version of the pattern I was doing. I then read all of the instructions and tried to get the basic gist of how the shapes and pieces were going to go together. Then I found them and cut them out.

Well, that was easy. But I still had a little procrastination left in me. So I did a little celebrity twittering.


Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award Winning. . .




I then finished prepping the pieces. I kept looking at the skirt pieces thinking, “That’s a LOT of skirt!  But I double checked and yes, there is the center seam where the two sides will sew together to make the full back of the skirt.

And look at all of that pleating! One of my goals is to be a bit more exact than I usually am with the pleating on this dress, so I make a note to mark the pleating spacing on my mock up.



Then I have to stop to figure out that whole “16C Top Left Overlay” thing. “What is that FOR? What’s its PURPOSE?” So I went back and read the instruction section on that and just did what it said. And I think I get it now: It’s so that those sizes have a guide on where to put those pleats to hide the slash lines. The slash lines are the opening in the sides of the skirt where the skirt will open up a bit and the bib front will drop down.  This pic gives a decent drawing of the purpose of the slash lines. In fact, the whole blog post is a good overview on putting together a bib front Regency dress.

So, yeah. . . totally tape on 16C in that corner!


The Infamous Piece 16C



IMG_7978At this point, I stopped for a few minutes for a mental break. I went to my Pinterest to look at a pic of the gown I find inspiring for my own dress. It’s made from the same Laughing Moon pattern.  When I did this, I reconsidered my earlier decision to go with ¾ length sleeves and committed to the shorter, non-puffed sleeves. This procrastination had decent results, but I won’t let it go to my head.



At this point, my clock said 9:35 p.m., so I did one thing I used to do when I sewed more often. Just when I think I want to say, “Well, that’s enough for right now,” I decide to set a timer for 20 minutes and commit to continuing for just a little longer.

In this case, I decided to take 20 minutes, set my pattern pieces on my mock up fabric and cut out those pieces.  I got everything cut out except the skirt pieces, saving the work of cutting on the floor for a little later.


I got them done with 5 minutes to spare, but there didn’t seem to be enough pieces. So I went back to my list of pieces I needed to cut out and double checked that I had them all. Turns out, I skipped piece #12. So I found it, cut it out in mock-up fabric, and put it with the rest.



Normally, I have a paper bag out for trash, threads, and offcuts of fabric, but I didn’t grab one when I started. So I wound up with a pile on the floor.

Because I work in a small space that needs to be functional for breakfast (and for my own mental well-being), I went ahead and retrieved a Trader Joe’s bag, swept the pile inside it, and now it is placed under the Project Home Table, where all of the cut out pattern pieces will patiently wait until Thursday or Friday to be put together.




Now that I’ve (hopefully) gotten over my procrastination hump, I’ll be more willing to dive in later in the week. I’ve read the instructions, handled the pattern pieces and cut out the mock up pieces, so I have a decent idea how they should go together.


And that’s what I’ll tackle next time on Sew-Along with Mrs Parks!


Hope to see you at the Rout! Do you have your tickets?


Mrs. Bennett

Sew Along Week 3.1

Sleeve Variations.

from Mrs. Parks.

When last we left off I had tantalized you all with the promise that I would talk about a couple of sleeve variations you could do.


View C of the Laughing Moon pattern shows a very pretty short puffed sleeve.  I think of this as THE SLEEVE of the Regency, the one most associated with the silhouette of the era. However the regency era has a vast array of sleeve options besides this simple variant.

I thought it would be fun to show a couple variations one could do with the SAME pattern piece just altering the way it is made up.

Variation 1


Here is the short puffed sleeve pleated onto my form and on to a dummy arm.

The pattern calls for the sleeve to be gathered into the armscye and a band.

So this variation shows pleats instead of gathers, and the length if one did a casing for historically inaccurate elastic (as opposed to the length and finish of a band as called for in the pattern).


Variation 2


I think this Variation is best suited for very drapey fabrics.  The bottom edge is left free and the center point on the sleeve shifted back on the shoulder.  A simple hem or decorative border of lace would be lovely here. Something about this feels very Grecian and mature.


Variation 3


Here we have left the bottom edge un-gathered but used a ribbon to loop up the center of the sleeve.  This variation is much like the front to the bodice in View C, repeating that design element on the sleeve gives a purposeful feel to the gown as a whole.

Variation 3.2


Here it is with the sleeve caught up in multiple places, a very pretty effect. I think it would look lovely repeated at the hem of gown, which is good considering that this pattern runs a little long.

So here are three (ish) ways to use the same pattern piece to achieve a different effect.  I like to think, “What my character would like? Does she dress a little young for her age? Is she a settled and imposing matron? Which sleeve would appeal to these different women?”

What other variations can you think of?

Here is a link to a whole slew Regency sleeve inspirations.

Next Time:  I discuss fabric lay outs and touch briefly on the lay out variations I was forced to take. Also cutting out and assembling the bodice.

All of the Sew-Along Blogs!

Mrs. Parks Sew Along: Mrs. Bennett’s Week Two, or “Fake It til You Make It”

from Mrs. Bennett

Hello dear Sewists and Friends!  This week has been eventful and busy and as such I am ALREADY BEHIND! Well, such is life. So, I’m doing half of my Week Two now and half next week. Mr. Bennett and I are going for a weekend at the shore and so I won’t have time to catch up this weekend.

But I AM here to talk to you about UNDERGARMENTS and a bit about MEASUREMENTS.

make it work

As I said before, I haven’t sewn regularly (other than small, lazy projects) in about five years. So my undergarment wardrobe is shamefully neglected. So I’m going to share with you how I am doing a little fakery to help get me closer to a Regency shape than my natural assets would get me!

*Please note my regular disclaimer right here and now: You should never feel pressured or required to dress perfectly period in all ways and wherefores when participating in historical costuming events for pleasure (barring historical performing or historical interpreter requirements). Some people really strive for that perfect period feeling and shape from the skin out, but others aren’t there yet. And some of us may never be! So don’t feel pressure to spend more money or time than you have. Dress however you’ll feel the most comfortable and in line with your own personal goals in historical costumes.

Because I don’t have the time or inclination to make new underthings right now, here’s how I’m faking a Close-to-Regency-Shape with none of the Regency Things:

Layer #1: Chemise, bra, leggings.

"Chemise", Bra, Leggings

“Chemise”, Bra, Leggings

Normally, there wouldn’t be much but skin and stockings under my chemise if I were a Regency lady.  But I’m getting a little help from my favorite push-up bra. This gives me a little lift and separation that I need. I’m wearing leggings in lieu of stockings and I’ll add trouser stockings and flat shoes on the day. The bra and leggings I’m wearing in this photo are black, but I’ll switch to white or cream when the time comes.

Plenty of people will stop here with their underthings and that’s fine! You do you.

I do like to add some semblance of a chemise, though. This pretty-ish piece I’m wearing is really just a cotton night-gown I purchased on I bought three, in fact. If you’re not into making undergarments yet, buying a short sleeved or sleeveless cotton white nightgown is an easy alternative (ruffles and lace optional!).

Layer #2: Corset.

The Go-To Corset

The Go-To Corset

This is my go-to corset. I have a newer one, but this one is broken in to my shape so it is more comfortable for dancing. It also stops at the middle of my bosom, so it gives me just a bit more lift under that surreptitious bra.

The thing about the corset for me is that it solves a lot of my “belly problem”. I’m quite thick around the middle and my belly often gets in the way of the line of my dress. So a corset helps smooth this out. For some people, a pair of high-waisted shapewear shorts will do just fine. And some people are comfortable letting it all hang out. It’s Liberty Hall here, folks. Be free.

If you’re not likely to make your own corset any time soon, but might like to try one for future historical costuming, I purchased my newer corset from which specializes in plus sized general corsetry up to a 52 inch bust (their sizing goes about 4 – 5 inches smaller than your regular bust size). I was very pleased with the silk steel-boned corset I wore for my wedding – much sturdier than a fashion corset and a good shape (but still more affordable than most high-end corsets). They have silk and cotton steel boned full corsets and underbust corsets here.  (Note: these are IN NO WAY historically accurate corsets. But if you’re just getting started wearing a corset for costuming purposes, these are solidly made and a good option for plus sizes.)

Layer 3: Lazy Petticoat

Lazy Bedsheet Petticoat

Lazy Bedsheet Petticoat

This is a quick and lazy petticoat I made from a sheet a few years ago. I like it for Regency dresses because it gives a little support to the skirt without being bulky on ME. And it smells great when it comes off the clothesline! Here’s the recipe for this petticoat if you’d like to try your hand at it. For a newbie, it may take a few hours. For someone with a little more experience in sewing, an hour tops.


Once I got all of my undergarments on and myself in the relative shape I was going to be for the Rout, I took my measurements in this get up. (I usually take my measurements in a get up similar to this yearly and keep them in my phone for reference.)

Measurements page from the pattern book.

Measurements page from the pattern book.

And now that that’s out of the way, when I return next week, I’ll be ready to follow Mrs. Park’s Week Two Guide on Pattern Preparation and Mock Up!

I hope you have a splendid weekend!



Sew-Along with Mrs. Parks: Week Two

Undergarments. Pattern Prep. Pattern Mock Up.

From Mrs. Parks

First things first, I want to talk to you about UNDEGARMENTS!  Scandalous I know.  I touched on this Topic in THIS post . The Regency era was a wild departure from the fully boned stays of the earlier generation (image stays 1) But with a very few exceptions ladies weren’t going around unsupported.  From my experience I have used everything from a modern bra to a set of short stays  to a bodied petticoat and everything in between.  You basically want to just raise and separate the bust.

This is an EXCELLENT article on Regency undergarments over at the Oregon Regency Society 

This link is to the “Sense and Sensibility” Pattern Hack to making a Bodied Petticoat is highly recommended, if you’re looking to make one. 


For petticoats, you can use a regular petticoat or a petticoat with shoulder straps like this extant example:

Image 4 strapped petti 1

Regency era strapped petticoats


I have decided to go with a petticoat on straps to avoid adding layers to my bosom. Here is what I came up with:

Image 2 petti coat with straps 1

Mrs. Parks’ Strapped Petti – Front

Mrs Parks Strapped Petti - back

Mrs Parks Strapped Petti – back

I didn’t have a pattern.  I sort of just improvised. For a regular petticoat, you CAN use the skirt section of the pattern and your mock up as a petticoat, if that works for you. You just put it on a waistband.  

Comment here or on Facebook if you all are super stumped about petticoats and I’ll come up with a “recipe” for you.

Why all this blathering on about undergarments? Because you must fit your dress OVER your undergarments or the dress just won’t fit.

Pattern Sizing Chart

Pattern Sizing Chart

PDF DOWNLOAD CHECKLISTS WEEK 2 – Undergarments and Measurements

UNDERGARMENT CHECKLIST – the basics you’ll need:

  • bra/corset
  • petticoat

Extras if you have them:

  • shapewear
  • chemise
  • stockings/nylons



Measurements checklist:

  • bust
  • underbust
  • Arm length (from underneath the arm)
  • Bicep
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Skirt length

image 6 imogen with pattern (1)The Laughing Moon Patterns have really great, specific sizing instructions in the very extensive instruction booklet that comes with the pattern. But they are not like the normal Big 4 Patterns, so read the sizing and construction instructions and follow them.

Remember: Measure OVER your undergarments.  Certain measurements increase with them on and certain measurement decrease, so put on the underthings you plan to wear to the Rout. Measure twice to be sure, but in the end TRUST THE TAPE.

A word of warning here: Be sure to take your measurement from the high waist right under your bust shelf.  Your natural waist is dead to us.*


*UNLESS your natural waist is larger than your underbust measurement in which case the pattern tells you what to do when selecting which pattern size to cut out.



Cutting the Pieces:

I had a carbonated beverage and perused the whole pattern booklet before I cut any of it out.  I will be going through View C with both the bodice that dips in front and the Bodice that gathers for the Sew Along.  Since this dress is for dancing I will be making a non trained version (well VERY SLIGHTLY trained).  I will also be doing the short puffed sleeve as seen with View C and I hope to explore a couple easy variations of that sleeve as well.

When prepping a pattern I do a rough cut out of each of the pattern pieces I’ll be using for my specific view and then put the rest back in the envelope.  I then cut out along the outside edges of the pattern pieces so ALL pattern sizes remain intact.  

IMG_2010 (1)


Then I trace the size I am using, blending sizes as need be, following the pattern instructions, onto some large gridded paper I have. 

IMG_2011 (1)

Afterwards I leave the original pattern pieces out of the envelope and in my “current project basket”. I do this because I am rubbish at transferring pattern markings so I inevitably end up needing to refer to theses again.


Man, do I hate pattern prep! If you ever work in my shop for a show, cutting out and prepping a commercial pattern is the first thing you learn, so then I don’t have to do it! 


Sweet Imogen decided to "help"!

Sweet Imogen decided to “help”!


A couple things to be aware of:

  • When you get to the  the whole 16 A, 16 B thing…It is tricky but I finally figured it out by you know…reading the notes ON the pattern pieces.
  • The Band for the short puffed sleeve is labeled in actual inches.  Be sure to use the circumference measurement of your bicep plus at LEAST 1” for ease.  I can already foresee putting elastic in this guy. So much arm raising in dancing…We’ll see.


Further Pattern Prep & Mock Up Pattern:


The Skirt pattern has some extensions that need to be taped on (due to paper size restrictions) go ahead and do this.  Unless you have a giant table the floor is going to be easiest workspace (it was for me).


Here it is with that template rectangle shown.  I am delightfully full figured so my template rectangle (16c) goes all the way to the corner BUT if I were smaller I’d place it as indicated on the pattern. (image IMG_1956)

IMG_1956 (2)


Keep in mind that there is a RIGHT side and a LEFT side of the skirt! (image IMG_1958)

IMG_1958 (2)

Here is my “NOT quite a train but still pretty feeling” length marked.  (IMG_1959)

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The exact length of  the skirt is written ON THE PATTERN ( I just think this is the bees knees). Since I have already taken my High Waist to Top of Foot measurement I know how to add to that skirt. I am 5’10” in flats and require a very long skirt. Chances are you’ll be wanting to plan for either some tucks (very period), a deep hem (very pretty) or to shorten the pattern.


Here I’ve marked some reminders for when I cut my fashion fabric. (image IMG_1953)

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Set the skirt pattern pieces aside until later.  There is a caution written on the pattern about the side pleats adding visual width and I am thinking “AH HECK NO!” So I may be forced to mess around with a mock up after all…we’ll see.



There is a whole thing in the pattern on “if the Underbust VS Bust measurement is more or less than 5”” there are different instructions.  I don’t remember what they are exactly, so I’m just cutting out the size of my bust measurement, The mock up will help me figure out what alterations I need to do.


Bodice pattern laid out on a scrap of unbleached muslin. (image IMG_2018)


You’ll noticed that I taped the strap piece to the lining piece in order to only have one piece…this ended up being a stupid idea because I needed to make an alteration later. DON’T DO THIS.  You’ll see…


Since I am doing a darted version of the bodice I marked my darts on the Mock Up by literally jabbing the pin through the paper to mark the dart tip and then marking the dart ends (image IMG_2030)


Then I assembled the bodice lining for the mock up:

the back side seams

the back side seams put together



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the darts for the front fall View C


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Casings for the Gathered Bodice View


Then I put it on my dress form and started to tinker with the pattern.  If you do not have a dress form you will have to try the pattern on yourself and using a mirror, a friend, and/or some advanced contortion pin the alterations you need while you are wearing it (and your undergarments).  I suggest safety pins for this step.

Here are some of the alterations I ended up doing for my fitting:

I changed the shoulder strap angle to fix this gaping (image IMG_2026) (image  IMG_2029)

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I added an additional dart (The Pattern told me I would probably need to do this) (image IMG_2039  and Image IMG_2047)  

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I decided on how low I wanted the dip for the View C look…(Image IMG_2049) and realized I’ll have to make the lining out of Fashion Fabric (Image IMG_2053) because the lining shows.

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Looked at the gathered bodice version and decided it looked just fine (Image IMG_2059)

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And then transferred the changes back onto the paper pattern. (Image IMG_2063)


which left me with this (image IMG_2064).  


I don’t always do this step, often I recycle my mock up directly into the fashion fabric pattern. In this case, I thought I’d use the pattern again a couple more times, so it was worth this step.  I ended up taking the back up quite a bit so I am going to have to remind myself to add length to the back skirt.

Then I was left with a pile of NEW pattern pieces and a plan (image IMG_2067)


Next Time: Fashion Fabric Bodice and Sleeve Variations!

Back to the Beginning of the Sew Along!

Mrs Parks Sew-Along: Mrs. Bennett Regency Dress Week One

Table o’Contents: Week one; Fresno Hancocks Deals; How I work in a Tiny Space.


How do you do, dear readers? I’m “Mrs. Bennett” (also known as Heather, in real life) and I’ll be doing the companion blogs to Mrs. Parks’ Sew-Along blogs.

mrsbennettMy interest in sewing started about 10 years ago when I began helping Mrs. Parks at Renaissance Festivals. But don’t let that number of years fool you! While I had worked my way up to what I think are intermediate skills in those first few years, that was basically just because I was sewing SO MUCH.

In the past five years or thereabouts, I haven’t been sewing nearly as much. A few small projects & some very fast work here and there. But most of my new costumes for the past few years have been made for me. My skills have atrophied – greatly!

So my companion blogs will be to give you an idea of what a non-expert sewer experiences during the sew along – and hopefully to help you feel okay with your own process!


Week one is all about prepping the project BEFORE the project starts. I cleaned my apartment of post-wedding detritus and swept the floors (always a good start to a project!):

And then I started getting motivated:

Then the first thing I did was order the pattern on  My fashion fabric and trim was purchased last January in the LA garment district. It is a deep garnet silk dupioni and a burgundy and gold trim. Total pricetag: Around $100.

IMG_7900Then, I printed out the checklists and went over my stock in my sewing closet. (I will be talking more about the sewing closet later, if you’re interested in how I sew while sharing a small apartment with my husband). 

Many items from the checklist were in stock, but there were a few things I felt I needed to pick up – especially mock up fabric. So I headed to the Fresno Hancocks to scope out their going-out-of-business deals. (I will also be going over the sale opportunities at Hancocks later, if you’re interested).


But if dropping a ton of money at Hancocks isn’t for you, you can get all the basics you’ll likely need at Target – with out the pretty distractions!


Target has 3 basic Singer machines too- if you’re just starting out. 

When I get home I take out the essential items from my sewing closet and set up the room for a project.

  • Temporary space for the sewing machine – coffee table. This is so I can use it for small things if I need to, but I won’t be using it much until I have the pattern mock up cut out.
  • Dinette table cleared – no tablecloth like it usually has. Cleaned off.
  • Ironing board out and in its spot so I don’t have to do it in the middle of the project.
  • Extra 4’ table out to hold the project supplies, etc. This will be Project Home  for project items and supplies. At the end of every work session on a project, all of the pieces and supplies go back to this table. (See below in Working in a Tiny Space).
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Sewing Machine on Coffee Table.  4 foot “Project Home” table – Wine and Pepcid AC optional. 



The ironing board station and dinette table cleared (mostly). 

My living space will stay like this for the rest of the month until it all gets put away at the end of the project.

So there we are! Now I’m just waiting for the pattern to arrive and for instruction on WEEK 2: Prepping the Pattern and doing a mock up!


This is a sad thing in the long-term. I actually liked going to Hancocks for basics like notions and white poly-cotton or lining fabrics. The place was always saner than JoAnn on the north end of town. But the current state of things for textile businesses is hard – the profit margin is so slim to begin with and people have online and wholesale options for fabric shopping.


Part of my haul from Hancocks.

But. . . because they are closing (most likely by end of June, they said), everything in the store is 50% – 75% off. Their notions wall is already pretty much decimated, but there are some less regular supplies still to be had. I got 12 yards of boning in the casing for 60% off, for example. They also have a ton of patterns on sale from $1.50 – $3.50 depending upon the brand, so if you want to stock up on some Big 4 costume patterns for yourself or your kids, now’s the time to head over there.


IMG_7891My haul includes 2 bolts of 100% cotton fabric and 3 bolts of poly-cotton blend for mock up fabrics and lining. They have a LOT of cotton and poly cotton 45” bolts left there- most are 50% off, but if you buy the whole bolt, they give you an extra 10% off. So white poly-cotton was about $1.40 a yard and 100% cotton about $4 a yard.

They had a lot of prints there, too, which would make great Regency day-dresses or very sweet gowns. The poly-cotton might need to be washed and dried first to have a good drape, but it will do for a very low price. Especially for someone just starting out in sewing.

There were also several FAT bolts of eyelet cotton to be had, a goodly amount of spool o’ribbon, and some trims still to be had.

So, if you’re catching up or just starting out, go to Hancocks, ask to be pointed in the direction of the cotton and poly-cotton fabrics and prints, and go to town. Inexpensive fabric is the best to experiment on!


It occurred to me as I was setting up that occasional sewists and new sewists may be at a loss regarding how to organize the STUFF. Because there is a LOT OF STUFF involved in sewing. And there’s even more STUFF involved in keeping your creations and accessorizing them!

Many people you read online have sewn for a long time and have created space in their lives to accommodate it. They’ve got a spare room for it, have converted a home-office area, or take over their kids’ play-rooms when they work on a project.

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The living area of the one bedroom apartment I share with Mr. Bennett.

But many of us occasional sewists don’t have that. We trot out the machine to the kitchen table when there’s a project and tuck it away when it is done. But what if you’re getting into more regular sewing, but still don’t have the space?

Well, Pinterest has lots of really beautifully perfect pictures about the “Small Sewing Space” 

But they seem impossibly twee and never seem to address storage or how to maintain it. So I thought I’d give you a few tips on how I’ve managed the sewing stuff and costume stuff over the years.

The first thing is having a solid plan for your SEWING CLOSET.


Our coat/storage/sewing closet with the 3 drawer plastic bureau.

My sewing closet is actually shared with the coat closet in my apartment. (We have a sum total of TWO closets in our apartment). And THE BEST thing I ever did with it was get one of those 3 drawer plastic bureau drawers college kids get for their dorms. They often come with wheels for the bottom.

TOP DRAWER: Essentials – scissors, threads, pins, spools o’ribbon, etc. All the notions, bits & bobs you often need on hand.
2ND DRAWER: Trims and accessories. When you live in a small space, you’re more likely to become a trim hoarder than a fabric hoarder. Fair warning.
3RD DRAWER: Full lengths of fabric for costuming projects. I keep only 3 projects worth of fabric in these drawers at a time. More than that, it’s getting crowded.

This 3 drawer piece is the best thing when you’re starting out or trying to scale down. Get one of these, park it in a solid place in a closet, fill it, and roll it out when need be.

Another tip for this: Get various sized, inexpensive food storage containers to organize things like buttons, closures (snaps, hooks & eyes, etc), elastics, binding tape, etc. You can see through them so you can find the right box right away and they stack well in the drawers. (Some people also use ziploc bags, but I don’t think they organize as well.)

TIP FOR KEEPING THE SEWING SPACE RELATIVELY TIDY: One of the other things I acquired for the space, is a lightweight 4’ table that stores easily in the closet, but comes out for projects. As the “Project Home” for the project, I make sure that all of the project stuff goes back on this table at the end of each work session. This helps keep my tiny apartment from being too overrun with project flotsam and jetsam and keeps me from feeling like I’m losing my mind by the mess. And as my dinette is cleared, there’s no problem with breakfast the next morning. Also, since I gathered everything together before leaving off, I have a very good idea of where everything is the next time I tackle the project.

So those are my first few tips for working in a small space. There will be more as we go along – probably involving bankers boxes, repurposed plastic storage, wine and Pepci AC.

Thank you for your patience and good attentions, dear reader!

See you in a few days for WEEK TWO!