Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hot off the ironing board!

Here are the December projects that I remembered to photograph before sending on their way... though 2 of them are still waiting for their companion garments and are living on the dress dummies.

Going by Historic Order...

Mid 18th century shifts:

The first one has fitted sleeves & a scalloped flounce. It's made from a cotton/linen blend that is almost handkerchief weight, but not quite. I sent it's twin to CO for a very elegant lady.

Another sleeve type that I played with is the straight ruffle. Apparently this was worn a lot, by all classes, but I just don't like it as much as the flounce. Maybe if the sleeve was more fitted over the elbow?
Both of these have a semi-fitted sleeve vs. the 'easier' rectangle.

The next one I make will be long sleeved with a short ruffle. I also like the 1/2" band with a single button style.

I am avoiding draw strings on sleeves as I have never seen a historic reference for this pre-1780. It's a fire hazard and I highly recommend getting rid of any drawstrings that could dangle in your soup or double as a candle wick.

Late 18th century wool shirt.

This could be worn anywhere from mid-18th century to mid 1800's. Wool shirts, known in the reenacting community as "blanket shirts," were commonly worn by the working class (though never made from blankets!). The most common color was light brown, as it was easy to dye & re-dye, but any color could be worn. They were over-shirts for outdoor work... similar to sweat shirts or fleece jackets today.
I made this particular shirt for a friend of mine, who looks great in it, and I'd share if I could get his pictures off my e-mail!
The tricky thing about wool shirts is that most of the finishing work has to be by hand, because your machine will choke on all those layers. The cuffs & collar have to be hand finished, the neck gussets have to be top-stitched by hand, all the button holes must be hand sewn... the heart is always hand sewn... you might as well do all finishing by hand just to make it look right.

1790-1800 Waistcoats
These two wasitcoats are the same pattern for men of different heights. Strangely enough, they have the same waist measurement. I'm not sure this coincidence has ever happened before! The one gentleman is close to 6' tall, the other is about 5'5".

The blue waistcoat is made from fustian (cotton/linen blend) lined with cream fustian. This stuff frays like there's no tomorrow. Overlock, fray-check, stay stitch galore. But it's lovely to touch & stiff enough to not need interlining.

The white is linen lined with self fabric. The collar will have to be starched, but then it will stand up perfectly.

Not sure I put that top button in the right place. It's right from the side, but looks kinda funny from the front. It's the right number...

This waistcoat is 1 of 4 garments in this order.

1829 Waistcoat & shirt
2 of 5 garments...
This poor shirt has modeled for every waistcoat pictured here... It's a beautiful cream linen with a pleated front, which is kinda cool. And surprisingly easy to do... Really more pin tucks than pleats, but I'm not splitting hairs. The collar is extra wide & will stand up when starched. The cuffs are very wide too. Self-fabric wood-blank buttons.

The waistcoat is silk lined & backed with linen. It has a cotton interlining so the silk doesn't go all wonky.
The buttons are wood 4 holers covered with silk. My blanks took a hike somewhere... I'll find them next year!

This pattern is modified from the one above to be a late 1820's style. The collar is about 2" taller than the 1790 waistcoat & it's more fitted at the waist, with only 4 buttons in the front. I tried welted pockets, but they looked terrible with the silk. The outlines showed something fierce. I hate fake pockets, and have a feeling that this was what the originals had. I refuse to make fake pockets. So no pockets. Not even hidden ones.

Fortunately this gentleman is exactly the same size as my husband (what are the odds?) and I've been able to head off some potential oopses before cutting into customer fabric.

Early Civil War Uniform, 1861-63
(just to clarify, the American Civil War was from 1861-65).

This was my mother's project. This handsome gentleman is my former high school history teacher, Tom Cook. I learned more from him about troop movements in the Civil War than I ever cared to know.
He is one of our local historians and has written & published a book on Letchworth State Park... which is not on the bookshelf where it belongs, I will find the title & provide a link at a later date.

The jacket is a shell jacket made from navy blue wool that quickly dispatched every machine needle it met. The original color we discussed was Cadet Blue from West Point. This blue-gray color was abandoned early on because it was too similar to the Confederate Gray... if the term 'friendly fire' means anything to you. The sleeves are lined with brown cotton, the jacket itself is unlined as most of his tour-guide work is done in the summer. The cuffs come to the first knuckle... "the directions told her to do that!".. sorry, in-joke. I'm not sure what the reenactors do about sleeve length today.

The shirt is cotton with a pleated placket front & stand-up collar... and starched to within an inch of it's life.

The pants are sky blue wool, standard throughout the war. They are the right length when he has his shoes on.
All buttons are brass.

I think he got the cap off of e-bay.

So, this is a fraction of what's on the sewing table this month. The pile of stays parts is gradually becoming a pile of stays, the 1829 order is slowly getting done and the brain tan breeches that MUST be finished by the end of next week are literally inching towards looking like a garment a guy could wear.

Happy Sewing to all of you costumers in the New Year!


Unknown said...

LOL! LOVE the comment about the shell jacket vs machine needles! There is a reason we do very few uniforms these days! We do generally make the sleeves a 'convenient' length, as I do not believe for a moment that any soldier would put up with them in his way for very long at all. I can just see him getting stuck in them while trying to drill!

Thanks for the reminder about safety when dealing with open flame too! I cringe to see some of the 'fine ladies' in their ruffles and hoops messing about near the fire!

I'm betting that the straight sleeve ruffle was probably an accommodation of the same sort. The other is prettier, but less practical if you have your hands in the food.

One of these days when I am in Livingston county, perhaps we could meet for tea?

Barbara V

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

I would love to meet for tea some time. Let me know when you are out this way. I'll send you my number via Facebook.

((shudders)) the thought of a hoop skirt near fire is... awful. I lit one once just to see what would happen. It makes an effective flue.
There is a reason that work clothes are so much simpler than dress clothes.

Keith said...

Gail, would you by any chance have a link for the documentation on this 18th century wool shirt?
Another great post.
Regards, Le Loup.

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

Le Loup,
1792, George Moreland, the guy who is standing has a wool work shirt, ie. 'blanket shirt'. The fellow who is sitting has a sleeved waistcoat with a gusset. I don't agree with the interpretation of the original post, but the picture is worth more than 20 words.

Another George Moreland, this one has embroidery on the shoulders & neck, you can clearly see the cuffs. I think this is more of a smock frock, but essentially the same as the wool shirt.

Keith said...

Thanks Gail, I know these paintings. But these are not wool shirts, they are men's work frocks. This shirt style pullover work frock (not smock) was popular from the early 18th century through to the mid 19th century at least. They were I believe still in use during the 20th century with smocking, and were then called smocks.
These were usually made from Linen or tow cloth. There may have been woolen ones but as yet I have found no documentation.
See more at:
Regards, Le Loup.

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

Moreland is a great source for the over shirt/work shirt/smock-frock and other working people's clothes. And I would agree that it's difficult to tell fabric types based on paintings, or worse, photos of paintings. However, Moreland is excellent at painting fabrics, and the weight & movement of his work shirts is so close to wool or linsy-woolsy that I'm inclined to think it is most likely that fabric.
"Inside of a Stable" is a great one for showing the cut and thickness of the fabric as it bends & folds. There are few fabrics that move like that, and wool is one of them.

Having never encountered tow cloth in person, I can't say if it behaves the same, but in the few pictures I've seen, it looks too fine & flexible to be this particular work shirt... of course, weaving, spinning & washing methods have changed enough that fabric doesn't behave exactly as it used to. (and the 'jump suit' in Worker's Luncheon is almost certainly tow cloth).

For my purposes as a seamstress this garment is exactly the same as a shirt, just larger. The cut is the same, and there are numerous written references to work shirts or hunting shirts being made out of wool, linen, leather, etc. (though the leather is more 19th century).

Sketches of Border Adventures in the Life & Times of Major Moses Van Campen by J.Niles Hubbard mentions a wool shirt that he wears hunting & in the fields.
Two Centuries of Costume in America by Alice Morse Earle (an ancient book that a friend let me borrow) mentions woolen work clothes in several death inventories and household auction accounts.
Those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head, but I have run across other reliable references here & there.
It's possible that 'woolen' refers to several different fabric types, but I'd rather stick to the word than guess.

Unfortunately the reenactorism of the blanket shirt has made both of our jobs/hobbies harder.
I try very hard to base my clothes off of good, solid references, always check my sources & trust my own instincts. I can argue with my seamstress friends till all our faces turn blue (or red, or purple), but in the end we can only go on what we know, can afford, or have access to.
As a business person who can't always afford to be picky; whenever I make a garment I'm not sure of, I fully inform the customer. If I post about it, I inform the reader.

As to this particular shirt, my friend dresses 1820's-40's, and the color was very common in wool at the time. The monogramed 'W' would have been a common personalized element on a home-made garment, though it should probably be "DW"... which he would not like. Perhaps I can talk him into a tow cloth pull-over rather than the burlap thing he wants & I refuse to make.

Thank you for the references on smock-frocks, I really enjoyed that entry.