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Monday, February 17, 2014

Finishing Projects Long after You Started Them

Any of my fellow crafters can probably relate: you have to get projects done for other people correctly and on time, but projects for yourself (and sometimes your family) get pushed back by those other projects or by life. You start them way too late, or you start them in plenty of time, but you don't get to work steadily on them, so you're still finishing them at the last minute. Instead of finishing your designs the way you intended them, you just get them to be wearable (meaning enough of it is there to have you appropriately covered, and any visible closures are there, but there may be pins holding other parts together, and embellishments get left off).

Unfortunately, that's a frequent occurrence for me. If you have been following me for very long you already know this to be true. My Civil War ballgown took forever to really get finished/fixed, and my poor Elizabethan gown is still in its first, "wearable" incarnation--I have yet to add more embellishment or the sleeves, etc. Hopefully, it doesn't doubt my affection.

Well, the latest example is my pioneer dress that I intend to double as a Civil War day dress. I made it in late July of 2013 for Pioneer Day, which is a State holiday in Utah and also a Mormon holiday elsewhere. To be exact, I was finishing it on Pioneer Day, barely in time to make it to my performance with Old Glory Vintage Dancers. And by finishing, I mean doing actual construction--some of the seams still, the growth pleats (technically an embellishment, but I could either do them immediately, or abandon them completely or the skirt would be about a foot too long), the hem, and the buttons and buttonholes. I had already abandoned my plan for the bodice to be smocked because I recognized that I wasn't going to have time for it, which is the only reason it got as finished as it did. As it was, I sewed the buttonholes down the front of the dress right before leaving for my performance, and sewed the buttons on in the car on the way there while dressed in my Victorian undergarments so that I could just slip my dress on over them when it was "done." I did not get the buttonholes or buttons sewn at the sleeve cuffs, so they just got pinned closed.

I felt very self-conscious that day because I am a little vain, and my dress looked rather drab with its almost complete lack of embellishment. The smocking really would have helped it, and I made the dress out of a print, so the growth pleats for which I had had such high hopes didn't even really show. It looked completely inelegant. And my straw bonnet had also been thrown together too quickly, so the brim was too small because we (Jon was helping me get done) didn't have time to add the extra rows of straw braid that it needed, it had no ruffles at the neck like it should have, and the ties weren't really attached correctly, so it wouldn't even stay in the right position on my head. Sorry I didn't get any pictures of the bonnet at that stage.

Both the waistband and the growth pleats are invisible.
Well, luckily for my poor, sad pioneer costume, Raleigh, NC is shut down because of snow and ice, so I have had some time to sew. I finally gave the sleeve cuffs their buttons and button holes, and I added a lot of trim (which I bought months ago) to the dress. It's narrow and simple because showy didn't seem appropriate, but it makes a world of difference in how the dress looks. (I especially like it with hoops under it as a Civil War day dress, but its pioneer look is a lot better now too.) The lines of trim on the skirt did not help the growth pleats be more noticeable as I'd hoped, but they do make the skirt look prettier. I'm still annoyed by those growth pleats because I'm certainly not going to grow another foot in my lifetime. I'm more likely to get shorter than taller (though hopefully not anytime soon), so the only point of all that work measuring and sewing growth pleats into a really full skirt was for decoration, but you cannot, in fact, see them. It actually has me contemplating further embellishment in the form of fringe or tassels under the pleats to make them stand out, but we'll see if that particular obsession wins. It's pretty the way it is, and fringe and tassels are rather expensive. That will of course not be happening any time soon if it does happen.

The trim really transforms the dress.
The bonnet took less time, but needed more drastic work. I took the double fold bias tape off the edges and sewed 3-4 more rows of straw braid (salvaged from another straw hat project) onto the brim, then sewed the bias tape back on.

I had just enough of the trim from the dress to put a row of it along the edge of the bias tape on the brim, then I sewed the bonnet sash (I have no idea what else to call it) on properly with some embellishments at the sides.

Finally, I added three rows of simple eyelet lace to the back for the neck ruffle. I really like how it looks now. Any of you who know a lot about historical headwear may notice that the bonnet is not really quite the right shape for the time period, but I still think it turned out pretty and intend to wear it just as it is.

The costume may not be perfect, but I like the overall effect. I think the dress looks prettier with hoops under it than without, which is one reason the pictures mostly portray it that way, rather than with lots of petticoats under it as I would wear it when using it as a pioneer costume. I also don't have enough petticoats yet, but I'll solve that problem eventually. The bonnet, however, is actually more pioneer than Civil War (although, as I said, not completely correct for either), but what can you do? I may be pretty good at making costumes, but I don't have all that much money, so costumes have to be able to do double-duty as much as possible.

Bonus project: I made Jon some makeshift cufflinks today. He really likes French cuffs, and he owns a few pairs of cufflinks, so the last time I bought him any dress shirts, that's what we got. Unfortunately, we moved across the US in November and managed to leave all his cufflinks behind, and he has no regular button dress shirts, nor do we have money to buy either cufflinks or new dress shirts. He's been just wearing his short
sleeved button-up shirt with a sweater over it or more casual shirts because there wasn't a lot we could do, but I had a genius idea last night, and today I made it a reality. Like many crafters, I have a collection of miscellaneous buttons, some of which match each other. I let him pick two small brass buttons that he liked, and I sewed pearl buttons to the backs with heavy button thread. After securing the end of the threads, I coated them in Fray Check, et voila: cufflinks!

They're not going to become a new fad, but at least he can wear his good shirts again while we're still waiting to get his real cufflinks back.