And it has to be, if I’m going to get all these outfits done before my husband & I leave for France in May! Holy moly, I’ve got so much to do. I had to cancel a bunch of social events on weekends (tho’ I’m still obligated to attend two SCA events & one faire with Bella Donna; I have jobs to do at the SCA events, & a performance to help with at the faire). Plus there’s at least one family event I can’t get out of (tho’ I can bring sewing to work on during the drive & while sitting with family; they won’t mind too much). I basically looked at my calendar & scheduled in sewing projects for every available weekend day, plus I’m trying to get at least some small amount of work done on weekday evenings (which is really hard for me to do after a full day of office work; my brain is usually just not able to engage in higher functions after 8+ hours of writing/editing/meetings, etc.).
So far, I’ve had a run of several productive weekends. After finishing the chemise gown, I completed a nice, simple dressing gown. Just burgundy silk taffeta in a kimono shape lined with an old burgundy sheet. I think the fiber content was bamboo; whatever it was, the lining is super-soft & cozy, so robe combines the swishy silk exterior with a deliciously comfy interior. I trimmed the neck, sleeves, & hem with some fancy woven metallic trim inspired by this portrait (linked before).
Then Kendra draped me (& at the same time, Sarah) for a francaise. Well I didn’t realize it till we were done, but the way she draped & pinned meant that I’d have to HAND-SEW the whole bloody thing! I mean, everything but a couple long skirt seams. Christ on a cracker. Don’t we know that I’m not a hand-sewer? That is not my forte, in fact, it is my nemesis. Ugh. I did not relish that prospect, so the pinned-up thang sat on my dressform for a few weeks to think about what it had done.
Instead, time for Thomas’ suit. I tweaked the Reconstructing History 18th-c. frock coat pattern I’ve used for him before (& for Leonard). This pattern is, like most RH patterns, ever so slightly better than drafting one yourself. It’s functional but things don’t always line up precisely, & the instructions have giant gaping holes in them. The fit is, um, well, just make a lot of muslins first. A LOT. Sometimes they run really small, sometimes really big, sometimes just weird. Anyway. I had a version that worked, but Thomas didn’t like several things about it. Also, we both wanted a slightly different cut. So I made some adjustments, got him to stand still long enough for fittings, & drafted a new pattern from that.
I also drafted a wholly new breeches pattern. He hates wearing authentic 18th-c. breeches with all those stupid front buttons, & I hate making them (the best-looking pair I did was for Leonard, & yeah, I hated wearing them too). But I kept looking at the Venetian breeches pattern I’d scaled up from The Tudor Tailor & made for him several years ago & thought, hey, that’s not too far off from 18th-c. breeches in shape. And they have a front button fly. So a few muslins & re-drafts to make them less poufy & to add back-lacing to the waistband, & *ta da* I had a whole new pattern. My dear friend Donna will be sewing them up, along with a waistcoat & banyan for my husband, to help take little strain off my sewing schedule. I packed up those patterns, instructions, & materials & sent them off to her.
Meanwhile, I started on the coat. Lavender silk with black silk cuffs, collar, & buttons, plus black trim. Got everything cut & the body of the coat assembled, even made all 27 covered buttons, but the coat’s been hanging from the back of my sewing room door, sans sleeves, for a while now. Got distracted with a new project…
Somewhere along the line, I got the idea of making an embroidered waistcoat for Thomas. Just so he has another option to mix & match. And because my sewing machine can do it. And as I was looking for designs on one of the many embroidery websites, I saw hibiscus flowers. Now, my husband loves our tropical vacations. He’s a big fan of Aloha Fridays. Thus, a new twisted historical idea was born: Embroider an 18th-c. waistcoat with a design of tropical flowers & a few palm trees & pineapples. Donna said she’d sew up the waistcoat too, once I embroidered the fronts (a twist on the authentic process: people would often buy pre-embroidered waistcoats to sew at home :).
Of course, I forgot how freakin’ long it takes to embroider, even by machine. Each waistcoat front took 9 hours, start to finish! They’re not quite done, have to wash off all the little placement marks & iron them, and I still have to embroider the pocket flaps. They’re far from perfect, but I think the idea carried through clearly enough. At least Thomas gets it & likes it, & that’s what matters.
Machine embroidering did let me multi-task a bit. Each major embroidery motif took 40 minutes to an hour, & while I did have to stop & change the thread 9 times, I could otherwise press the machine’s button & go do something else. So I finally attacked the goddamned hand-sewing on the freakin’ francaise. It was, as predicted, a royal pain in the arse. But I did it! I sewed the entire bodice BY HAND, muthafuckas! A true first for me &, I hope to the gods, a last! I’m not convinced that a garment hand-sewn by me won’t fall apart during or shortly after its first wearing, but it’s not like I had a choice. In fact, the way it was pinned & how close the cuts/slashes were in places meant I sewed a backstitch as topstitch almost everywhere. Now my crappy sewing shows right up front. At least black thread on black fabric is a tiny bit less noticeable. Still have some long seams to finish — by machine, thankyouverymuch. And it needs sleeves — also by machine, blessed be. But the main body of the francaise is assembled with something more than pins.
The state of my to-do list right now is mostly finishing these projects on deck, then revisiting the long-abandoned stripey redingote. After that, it’s accessories like a petticoat for the chemise gown, cap/hats/wigs, & anything else I’m missing. I feel like I’m halfway there. *fingers crossed*