Monday, March 31, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg March 2014 Part 1

Wow! Where to begin? Williamsburg was absolutely amazing, magical, and I cannot wait to go back. I spent a wonderful week with some of my favorite ladies and met a number of lovely people.


I hit the ground running and joined Abby, of Stay-in Alive, in the millinery shop Saturday morning. It was wonderful to meet the ladies that work in the shop and see their stunning creations!


(Photo by Lauren of American Duchess)

Lauren and Maggie arrived later Saturday afternoon and I hoofed it back to the house to round them up and drag them, willingly, all over Williamsburg. I look rather disheveled, but this was taken after I had walked a good 5 miles that day.

20140316_110229The next morning we woke up early and dressed for our day in Jamestown for the Military Through the Ages event.


Jamestown was a lovely experience! The sights, smells, and interpreters were wonderful. I wish we had more time to spend meandering the grounds and seeing the sites.


The ever lovely, American Duchess Lauren


The surgeon showing explaining his trade.

CW2014 set1 (2 of 7)

No trip is complete without making chicken friends. (Photo by Lauren of American Duchess)

CW2014 set1 (1 of 7)

(Photo by Lauren of American Duchess)

Then this happened….


Yes, we met Napoleon while shopping! Doesn’t get much better than this…


Stay tuned for Part 2

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Hat and a Reticule

Hello All,

   I have returned from Williamsburg and I am slowly sorted through my pictures. It was absolutely AMAZING; words cannot describe how wonderful the trip was. I will be posting pictures and stories soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the final projects I completed right before I left for CW. Enjoy!


Attr. to John Hoppner, Portrait of a lady, ca.1785-1786, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

While doing research on 18th century hats, I stumbled across this beauty! I decided I must have this hat in my wardrobe.


I am very pleased with the result! I jokingly refer to it as the hat of doom.

The second project was a simple embroidered reticule. My older reticules have definitely seen better days.


I’m very happy with the results and it held up beautifully during my trip.

I promise to have pictures and more on the trip soon.

God Bless!!!

Love Lauren

Friday, February 21, 2014

Blue Spencer, Remaking a Spencer I Never was Happy With

Some years ago I made this spencer. This particular photo was after I had altered once. This is one of those projects that I was never completely satisfied with. The spencer always had fitting issues around the neck and the sleeves never quite fit right. Not to mention as soon as I hit 27, certain areas in the chestal region decided to expand, joys! So, I started taking this piece apart about 2 years ago with plans to fix it and change it into something else.
Villians Ball 036[4]
Ahh, the early days… please ignore Aaron’s boots, and the ill fitting frock coat… and.. well… pretty much everything he is wearing. Eeek! We all have skeletons in our reenacting closets, right! (Ok, I’m hard on myself, but I’m a perfectionist who is always trying to learn more and hone the craft.)
Anywhoo… back to the point of all of this.
About six months ago I found this lovely miniature. I decided my old, worn out, seen better days, ill fitting spencer might be able to have new life.
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Here’s the starting point, well the semi starting point, after removing the sleeves. As you may be able to see in the picture, the arms eye sits too far back and digs into my arm. I HATE it when clothing digs into me, especially when I try to move my arms forward. So, that had to be fixed. The other issues was the wrinkling of the bodice when I would close the front. The darts did not sit in the right spot and somehow needed to be moved. So, I sat and thought for a day or so, and looked at it. Yup, I need my sit, think, and stare time.
20140217_122139 During my sit and think time, I made my way to one of our local antique stores and found this lovely trim. It was perfect for this project and it’s vintage silver!
After fussing with things for a few hours, I decided to add a side piece under each arm. I somehow forgot to get a picture, but it’s really not that exciting. Anyway, that did the trick! It put everything in the correct spot. I also added boning to the front of the bodice on both sides and metal eyes on the inner edge to lace the bodice closed, like the painting shows.
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After a day, or so, of mounting the trim, we now have a finished bodice.
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Again, not the best of pictures, but at least you get the idea of the fit. I’m  much, much happier with this incarnation of the spencer. The fitting issues are fixed and I love the result!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Another Round Gown… Really, Can One Have Too Many?

This gown was one of those projects that I needed after the Riding Habit of doom. It was easy, it had no issues, and it only took me 12 hours to make. Yes, it is possible to hand sew a gown and sew it  well, without cutting corners in that amount of time. Anyway, here are the pictures. Enjoy!

20131110_185353The fabric.
The inspiration. I decided to make it more simple than the original gown. I may go back and add the piping on the bodice later on. 

Everyone needs a helper pet when hemming gowns.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Riding Habit Jacket/ Spencer That Almost Killed Me!

So, the ladies and I decided we needed to do some sort of riding habit day while we are in Williamsburg. I had started this habit a few years ago, about the time I started getting into horses. Anyway, after a move and buying a business, the habit fell to the sidelines waiting for the perfect event to make its debut.

I had already drafted the pattern and cut the original pieces out when we lived in Portland. I was never quite happy with the fit and decided it was time to readdress those issues this time around.


Angel, aka Mrs. Cartwright, had made these lovely buttons to go with the riding habit as well. The colors are perfect!

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After a few hours of fussing with the fit, I felt I had tackled the major issues…. This, of course, would prove not to be the case as the project progressed. This was one of those sewing projects that caused frustration from day one! The sewing gods were not in my favor and it was annoying.


I decided to line the lapels and the cuffs in blue silk to match the blue in the buttons. The hat I plan to wear with it has the blue and green as well.

20140128_095457 Now take a good look at the shoulders… notice anything strange? Well, I didn’t until AFTER I put the sleeves on. If you said the shoulders look short, you’d be right! I have no clue how I could have missed that very important detail, but I did. Yay me! Anyway, more on that later.

20140129_145000 The time to construct the collar had come. Pad stitching has to be one of my least favorite parts of tailoring. It takes FOREVER and it feels like you haven’t accomplished a whole lot by the end. Yet, it is one of the most important shaping tools in the bag of tricks. I also decided to line the inside of the collar in the blue silk to match the lapels. 20140202_125007 20140202_124949 At this point I had finished the collar and started attaching the sleeves. Then I did a fitting…. Yeah, the sleeves pulled the collar out of alignment and did not fit right.


So, I added a shoulder strap on top of the shoulder. I did a lot of research before I decided to add this crucial piece to extend the shoulder. Since the 18th century was chock full of pieced gowns, spencers, jackets, ect, I decided it would be ok to have this piece. Yes, I am that particular!

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This time it worked! The shoulder straps allowed the sleeves to sit in a correct position at the shoulder seam. Mind you this was after a few dates with the seam ripper and ever mounting frustrations! It’s projects like this that keep me humble, that’s for sure.


Finally it was time to start on the cuffs. This part went surprisingly fast and was fairly easy. I decided to keep the stitches red like I did on the lapels and the collar.

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Finally! Success!

Now it was time to attempt the skirt. I, wrongfully, assumed this part would be a breeze, no issues, ect. Well, as I mentioned before this was one of those projects. I discovered something about my body…. Long peplums and same colored skirts do not work on my body…. AT ALL! So after two days of fighting with the skirt trying to figure out why my already hefty derriere looked like a moose had taken up residence under the skirt, I decided to call it quits.


An Amazonian dress, 1797, Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection


Costume Parisien, an 8 (1799-1800)

I researched once again and rediscovered these fashion plates/ cartoons that I had forgotten about. Perfect! I can wear it as a spencer over one of my numerous voile gowns!

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And the results…. I know not the greatest picture, but you get the idea. 

So, the riding habit that almost defeated me has been bested and checked off the list of “Items to Make for Williamsburg.”