Ginger Rogers Skirt (HSM #12)

I spent a lot of time contemplating this challenge, debating what I should make for the topic this month: redo.

For the first half of December it was looking like I might not be able to squeeze in another project between birthday and Christmas presents but my crazy schedule finally calmed down this last week and I was really able to dive into a project.

For this month I chose to redo one of the garments I made earlier in the year: a 1930’s skirt that I made for Challenge #2 (Blue). Part of my decision was based on the fact that I’d had plans to make the pattern again for a while but a large deciding factor was my desire to see how much I’d improved my sewing skills since February.

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I used McCall’s 6993, view B. The fabric came from my stash — I’d originally picked it up at a secondhand store so I’m unsure of the fiber content.

I used quite a few techniques that I’d practiced over the course of the year, including drafting (to make the waist fit better), lining, and fabric-covered buttons, paying special attention to the work I was doing.

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I hemmed it while watching Top Hat, which was the perfect movie to go along with the skirt and gave the it its name.

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This is how I wore it today; I ran outside when I got home from work so I could have my sister snap some pictures of me before the sun set completely. The shoes were new (and matched the blue stripes perfectly!) which wasn’t the best decision to wear for my shift. Eight hours of standing = sad feet.

Looking back at the skirt I made in February I am very happy with how my sewing has improved in 2015.

For one, the top-stitching along the top is much neater. Plus I paid careful attention to how the pattern on the fabric laid and tried to match the stripes better than I had the checkers.

Next, I lined the skirt and sewed the facing down with bias tape to make a neat seam. On the blue skirt I left the facing loose, overlocking the edges (which ran into some issues when I took out the pockets and 8 extra inches — there are some holes in it now). The loose one now seems fiddly and hard to wear.

Finally, I paid extra attention to how I hemmed the skirt this time (not pictured). Last time I turned it under twice and sewed a straight stitch. This time I used bias tape (like at the waist) which presented a much neater finish.

So, all in all, I would call my last project of 2015 a major success! I ended up with a skirt I am happy to wear (it’s really warm!) and am proud of. I can really see how much I improved my skills this year which is really the purpose of what I’m doing!

The Challenge: Redo (HSM #12)

Fabric: Tan and blue striped fabric, black for lining

Pattern: McCall’s 6993

Year: 1933

Notions: Blue bias tape, off-white thread, black thread, buttons

How historically accurate is it? More than the last one!

Hours to complete: ~8 hours.

First worn: Today (December 31 — it’s not yet 2016 here, no matter what the date of this post says!)

Total Cost: Basically $0 since everything was from my stash. Thinking back to when I bought the materials, it probably comes in between $7 and $10.


18th Century Stays (HSM #10)

October was a whirlwind of sewing projects, one right after another, in preparation for Halloween. I started sewing for tonight back in January but, like it always seems to happen, everything bottlenecks in this month. In the past few weeks I’ve made almost a dozen garments so I figured that at least of them would fit for this challenge. Haha.

The prompt, Sewing Secrets, was a rather clever one. I was really eager to participate in it, though I had a hard time coming up with anything overtly secret to make. Thinking on it, though, I realized that the stays that I made for myself had a few secret things about it, however small.


They’re made from Butterick 4254 View A — with a few adjustments. I’d made a pair of stays for my sister from the same pattern over the summer so I had a good idea of how the pattern, without any adjustments, would fit me. So, to make mine, I raised the top three inches and cut two inches off both back pieces. I improvised the boning pattern.

The garment, in and of itself, is a secret one. It’s meant to be hidden under my outer layers so not many people will ever see it.


It’s made up of three layers of cotton duck and one layer of a turquoise synthetic I’ve had forever. One of the secrets in this garment is a busk. I cut about fourteen inches off of a yard stick and rounded the edges (using nail files – I lost my sandpaper!) so that it would fit nicely down the front of my stays. In the past, busks were often intricately carved and decorated and they made great gifts from one’s lover! Sadly, mine is plain but it’s a fun secret addition.

Secondly, I also like to think of the color scheme as a secret. I picked fun colors, not worrying about staying too accurate, and I had fun with the ribbons at my shoulders. The bright pink goes well with the turquoise and ended up matching the flowers I wore in my hair tonight!

I posted a few in-progress shots in my instagram, so you may have seen it along the way.

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Final view. Please excuse the smudges. A pirate wench can’t be too clean. 🙂

I reduced my waist about 4 inches tonight, pretty much the max that I could do and still be comfortable. It takes forever to lace – I guess I put in too many holes – and the string I have to use is absolutely gigantic. About 12 yards long. Eep. I used zip ties and duct ties for boning and I would call the stays fully-boned, although there are a few small gaps here and there.

The Challenge: Sewing Secrets (HSM #10)

Fabric: White cotton duck (1 yard), turquoise synthetic (1/2 yard)

Pattern: Butterick 4254

Year: 18th century (early-mid)

Notions: Off-white quilting thread, off-white bias tape, black grommets, duct ties, cable ties, yard stick (busk)

How historically accurate is it? Fairly. Except for the fact that it’s largely machine-stitched. It’s hard to put a percentage to it.

Hours to complete: 10 days.

First worn: Today!

Total cost: Cotton duck ($6), blue synthetic (stash), cable ties (stash), duct ties ($5), yard stick ($3), bias tape (stash) = $14 total.

I am really really happy with how these turned out. I’d made a pair of very lightly boned stays over the summer, but this was in a completely different league. So much intricate sewing and detailing went into the garment and I put a lot of effort into adjusting the pattern to fit me better. I feel like I’m getting a lot better at making adjustments, which is excellent. In all, I have some that will make me happy to wear, even if no one else can see it. 🙂

Happy Halloween!!

A Passel of Accessories (HSM #7)

This is an extremely belated HSM post but I assure you that I did, in fact, complete these items back in July! I ran out of time to photograph and write about them…but better late than never, right?

1. Jabot

The first accessory that I made was for my brother. A jabot to go along with his pirate vest that will cover the gap between it and his neck stock.


It was quick and easy to make; one evening’s worth of work. I cut up some trim off of an old Victorian bodice and mounted it onto a rectangle of cotton. I read through this tutorial before sitting down to do my work, which helped a lot.


The Challenge: Accessorize (HSM #7)

Fabric: Cotton and lace

Pattern: Followed the aforementioned tutorial

Year: Early/mid 1700’s

Notions: White thread

How historically accurate is it? Uh, it looks accurate, overall. Not the fiber content, though. 75%, I’d say.

Hours to complete: 1 hour or less.

First worn: Early August for a photoshoot.

Total cost: $0. All from my stash.

2. Pocket

Next up was an 18th century pocket for my sister. I did a fair amount of research leading up to it and found that styles really ranged according to personal taste and materials available. So, I went with a period technique of re-using fabric from other garments and used up more of the old bodice from the Jabot project.


I drafted a quick pattern on a piece of notebook paper and it was all done over the course of two lazy, summer afternoons.

I bound the edges with red bias tape and stitched a waist-tie to the back. Here is the final product, using my hand for scale:


front back

The sides look weirdly curved in the photos but I promise they’re straight in person! And you’ll probably notice that there’s a buttonhole halfway up the back; it’s to accommodate an insulin pump.

The Challenge: Accessorize (HSM #7)

Fabric: Floral fabric of questionable content from an old bodice

Pattern: Self-drafted

Year: 1700’s in general

Notions: White thread, red bias tape, waist tape

How historically accurate is it? Well, it shares the spirit of 18th century pockets. Probably only around 30%.

Hours to complete: About 4-5.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: $0. All from my stash.

3. Silver Shoes

I was content to leave the month’s challenge with what I had already done, but on the second-to-last day of the month I did a bit of shopping at Goodwill and came across just the pairs of shoes I had been looking for. I snatched them up and cleared my schedule the next day so I could get them both done. I did some hasty research and read through this, this, and this tutorial before starting.

First up: a pair for my sister.

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This is how they started out: dyed pink pumps probably worn once for an event and then donated. There’s no wear on them at all! I tore the sole off and used shoe glue to cover the upper with silver fabric.

Then I sliced a couple inches down on both sides of the toe and used duct tape to make a template for an extended tongue. I cut it out of some leftover cotton duck and glued it onto the upper using some shoe glue before covering it, too, in the silver fabric and held it down with with bobby pins.


While it dried I cut out tabs out of the same blue duck.

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Finally I sewed across the bottom, attached the tabs, glued some leather on the heels, reattached the soles, and bound it all up to dry overnight.


Ta da!


The Challenge: Accessorize (HSM #7)

Fabric: Silver fabric, blue duck, black synthetic leather

Pattern: None

Year: 1700’s in general

Notions: White thread, grommets, shoe glue

How historically accurate is it? Like 25%. It’s in the ballpark of 18th century shoe design.

Hours to complete: About 5.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: 4.99 for the shoes. Everything else from stash.

4. Mules

The same day I made a pair of shoes for myself. Here’s what I started with:


I cut away the sides to make mules and used some more duck to extend the tongues. I stiffened them with shoe glue and then glued and sewed them on so there was no danger of them coming loose.


Lastly I pulled off the soles, glued some fabric on the uppers, and then sewed across the bottom. I left the heels green and, as one final touch, sewed lengths of cream trim across the tops.


I bound them up to dry overnight alongside the first pair.




The Challenge: Accessorize (HSM #7)

Fabric: Blue/gold fleur-de-lis fabric

Pattern: None

Year: 1700’s in general

Notions: White thread, black thread, shoe glue, cream trim

How historically accurate is it? Maybe 35% this time. The shape is more accurate.

Hours to complete: About 5.

First worn: Not yet.

Total cost: 4.99 for the shoes (with extra 30% off, I think). Everything else from stash.

So there we have it! A busy month with a lot to write about…but I finally got it done!

Yo Ho Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Vest for Jake (HSM #6)

For the June HSM challenge, I wanted to take the opportunity to really push myself so I decided to sew a waistcoat for my brother. Before starting, I decided that, no matter how long it took me, I would do it all by hand. I’ve done exactly two, much simpler garments by hand before but I wanted to focus on my technique. I started in the second week of May and finally finished it today – just in time to snap some pictures (albeit in the dark…with flash).

The garment will be worn for Halloween and he’ll get an entire outfit to go with it…eventually. The idea behind his character is that he’s an early 18th century gentleman-turned-pirate so he wanted his clothes to reflect that. This was my first time doing sewing a man’s garment from that era so learning the fashion and sewing techniques of the day was a challenge in and of itself!

I used Simplicity 4923 (View C) for most of it, making little adjustments to the shoulder and back to fit him better. I also completely re-drafted the pocket flaps so that they curved along the top and came to three points instead of being flat across the bottom.

The front is made up of a teal synthetic fabric. It has a wonderfully subtle floral texture that you can see when the light hits it just right. The back and lining is made of brown linen. I know that the backs often had lacing or ties to tighten the garment, but I decided to not add any of it at this point in time. The fit was great just having taken in the side seams a few inches and I can always add it if the need ever arises.


The embroidery is done with material that I had left over from other projects. The gold detail around the edges is left over from my Halloween dress last year and is couched on with yellow floss. The embroidery on the pockets and buttons is done with metallic floss.

One of the hardest parts of this project was all of the buttons. I’m terrified of making buttons and buttonholes; that I’ll mess up and won’t be able to get them to line up and then I’ll have ruined it! I put it off for a long time but eventually there was no way around it so I just held my breath and went for it.

I bought three packs of cheap plastic buttons that were on sale for $0.40 and spent last Sunday covering 20 of them with embroidered pieces of fabric. It took me literally all day. I was very slow at it at first, but I got in a good groove by the end. 

Pictured atop “18th Century Embroidery Techniques” by Gail March — absolutely wonderful!

I sewed them onto the waistcoat that night but put off the buttonholes literally as long as I could. I was working on them until about 10 o’clock on the last day of the month.

I’d made buttonholes from the same era once before, but I was still very worried. I finally sat down today after work and worked my way through them. I’d done plenty of research beforehand and took my time to try to get it all right and, while they’re passable, I know I still have a long way to go.

As a bonus, I had spent an afternoon back in May sewing a neck stock out of a few inches of spare cotton I had lying around. It was a very quick project and I’m happy with it. It adds a lot to the overall look. Eventually I will sew a few rows of ruffles or lace on the bottom to cover the small gap between it and the top of the waistcoat where you can see the ties on the shirt (from his Renaissance outfit from last year) but that can wait.

Overall, I’m incredibly happy with the waistcoat it turned out. I’m proud of all the detail I put into it and I would grade myself a solid B on the buttons. At least they all line up and I didn’t ruin anything!

Next up pants for him and some proper photos of the outfit!

The Challenge: Out of Your Comfort Zone (HSM #6)

Fabric: Teal, synthetic fabric & brown linen

Pattern: Simplicity 4923

Year: Early/mid 1700’s

Notions: Black thread, covered plastic buttons, gold trim. Teal, gold, and yellow embroidery floss.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty up there…except for the fiber content. I’d say somewhere around 80%.

Hours to complete: Six weeks, working intermittently.

First worn: Tried it on today. It will be worn for real in October.

Total cost: Pattern and gold trim from stash. One and a half yards of linen for about $6. One yard of teal fabric for about $4. Floss and buttons together totaled about $2. Added up, $12.

1920’s Day Dress – (HSM #3)

I spent a long time thinking about this month’s challenge, stuck for several weeks. While I had plenty in my stash that I could draw from, I had a hard time finding any inspiration. I can’t tell you how many times I sorted through my patterns and pinterest boards, looking for something that would spark my interest. 

Then, about two and a half weeks in to March, I happened upon a new show.

There are two seasons on Netflix and I’m already on my second watch-through.

It’s about a female detective, Phryne Fisher, who solves crimes in 1920’s Australia with the aid of her wonderful friends, the local police, and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson. The show is filled with fun mysteries, lavish sets, and some of the most amazing chemistry between I’ve ever seen. Not to mention gorgeous costumes.

And so I decided that for the third HSM challenge, I was going to make something from the 1920’s. I have a set of instructions for the infamous “One Hour Dress,” but I’d made it once before a few years ago and I wasn’t happy with how it turned out. So, I turned to the internet to browse for a new method of construction.
I was a big fan of these dresses and I had a pattern in my stash that I could adapt to make a similar skirt.

Simplicity 1802. Last night I spent twenty minutes cutting out the three pattern pieces that I would use and sorting through my stash to pick out the fabric.

In doing so, I discovered that most of my stash is made up of quilting cotton, which was too stiff for this project. I wanted something sheer, but, in the end, went with a length of green fabric that I’d forgotten I had. I have no idea as to where it came from or its content, but it drapes nicely and I had enough of it to get a dress out of.

Fabric up close. It’s less olive-y in person.

I used the bottom half of the pattern, dropped it down a few inches so it would start around my hips, and drafted the top part of the dress from a loose-fitting t-shirt that I have.

I cut it out in two pieces, front and back, plus the four u-shaped godets. Then, this morning, I sat down to sew.
It went pretty quick and I had it done early in the evening, though I would have been faster if I hadn’t been distracted by TV while I was working. After a while I turned it off and put music on instead and worked much more efficiently.
Trying it on to check the fit of the top.
Trimming the bottom.
By the time I finished it was dark, so there wasn’t enough light inside to get good photographs. But phone pictures will do until I’m able to take proper pictures of it with my Nikon.

It’s a very simple dress, but I like it. It went much better than the last ’20’s dress that I made (too tight across the chest) and is very comfortable, especially with summer around the corner. It’s nowhere near as fancy as Phryne’s outfits from the show, but I could see her companion, Dot, wearing something like it.

The Challenge: Stashbusting (HSM #3)

Fabric: Green knit

Pattern: Part of Simplicity 1802

Year: 1920’s

Notions: Green thread. No closures or anything; it slips over my head.

How historically accurate is it? Ummmmm, 50%? That would be my guess. I went for more overall aesthetic than accuracy on this one as true ’20’s styles don’t tend to be very flattering on me.

Hours to complete: About 7.

First worn: Tried it on to take pictures. I will probably wear it on Thursday.

Total cost: Since everything came from my stash, $0. (I don’t remember what I got the fabric for when I bought it but I know that I got the pattern for $1.)

1930’s Skirt – (HSM #2)

The 1930’s have never been my forte, fashion-wise. While I’ve admired that period of history for other reasons, I’d always been under the impression that the long, slim lines would look silly on me.

But when I saw this new pattern on sale at Joann’s for $1, I couldn’t pass it up. At the very least, I could give the fashions a real chance before making up my mind.

Since the prompt for this month was ‘blue,’ I pulled out a length of plaid fabric from my stash and started sewing up option B, without the belt. The pattern itself was really straightforward and easy to put together. There are seven gores; one of which I cut on the bias.

I ran in to two problems during the construction:

1. The fabric was too stretchy. It’s not really a stretchy fabric in and of itself, but when the pieces were put together, it was too big and just slipped right off my waist. I’d cut my regular size but had to take 8 inches out of the waist.

2. Pockets. Enough said.

I don’t know why I thought pockets would be a good thing to add to the skirt, but I did. And, boy, was it ever a bad idea.

As flat as I could get the pockets to lay.

In the picture above, the skirt is finished except for hemming. I tried it on only to find that the pockets gaped, pulled, wrinkled, and looked just plain awful. So I quickly cut them out and sewed the slits closed.

Today was tank-top weather!

The skirt lays infinitely better with the pockets taken out. I slipped my Oxford heels on this morning to take a few pictures of the finished product and was entirely pleased with how it turned out. I hadn’t expected the skirt to flatter me, but I find that my opinion of 30’s fashions has changed dramatically!

I like how the front gore looks cut on the bias, but I could have done a better job matching the stripes through the rest of the skirt. The seams around the back don’t look too bad, but, looking at it again, I think I should have matched the patterns.

Well, there’s always next time.

The Challenge: Blue (HSM #2)

Fabric: Blue/black plaid (with a very subtle pink stripe running through)

Pattern: McCa;;’s M6993

Notions: Navy thread and zipper. Black hook-and-bar.

How historically accurate is it? I can’t really say. I know that plaid was popular during the 30’s, as was cutting on the bias. But, I know the fabric content isn’t accurate and I don’t know about my techniques. I would guess somewhere around 60-70%?

Hours to complete: Probably about 5-6. I would have saved myself a lot of extra time if I hadn’t wasted time with those stupid pockets.

First worn: Today to take some pictures. I’m planning on actually wearing it on Monday, though.

Total cost: I bought the fabric so long ago, I don’t remember its cost. I tend to buy fabric that it around $3/yard and I used about 2 yards. So my guess would be about $6. I had the notions already and I’d bought them at such a low price that they wouldn’t even add another dollar onto the total.

1730’s Chemise – (HSM #1)

When I saw that the first HSM challenge was ‘foundations’, I decided that I wanted to use it to make my first foray into the 18th century sewing, which I’ve never done before. Rather fittingly, I’ll be starting with the foundation of my new wardrobe.

The Spring, by Jean Marc Nattier, 1738 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I spent a lot of time doing research because I started with zero knowledge about this era; just a few general ideas about shape and necessary pieces. It took a while, but I decided on the 1730’s and based my shift’s construction off of the research done by Sharon Ann Burnston and used the painting The Spring (above) as a visual guide.

With all the time I spent doing research, I started really late in the month and had only a couple days to sew it. I swung by Joann’s one afternoon before I had to go to work and bought two yards of 90 inch muslin with a 50% off coupon.

The next night I took all my measurements (on the piece of paper at the top of the photo) and laid out the muslin to cut it up. The fabric was folded four layers thick so the front piece wouldn’t have to be sewn to the back piece at the shoulders and, as it so happened, 45″ was right where I wanted the bottom of my chemise to be so it fit quite perfectly onto the muslin.

I spent the night watching the stage production of Oklahoma! and sewing it all together by hand with cotton thread. I tried to get it all done that night, but, by 4:30 am, I just couldn’t do it any more.

It was going well until I got to the sleeves. I had originally planned to just gather them into cuffs that were loose enough so they didn’t need an opening, but, looking back at my guide picture and re-reading the instructions, I realized that they actually had a small slit up towards the elbow and closed with a ribbon (or cuff-links) through buttonholes. At first I was going to just move past it, but I couldn’t bring myself to and had to go back and re-open part of the sleeves that I’d previously sewn shut.

So it followed me around in a basket for the next couple days as I hemmed the new openings and gathered them in to cuffs. I was a little nervous to do buttonholes for the second time ever, but it turned out alright. At this point I had to face it that I would finish a couple days late but I didn’t want to over-do it on the first entry of the year.

So, in the end I finished two days late but I’m glad that I finished it at all. I had a love-hate relationship with all of the hand-sewing along the way but I’m pretty happy with the final product. If I could do it over, I would have made the sleeves a little fuller, but I think it’s pretty good.

Final Product:

Sleeve detail.
Side detail.

The Challenge: Foundations (HSM #1)

Fabric: White Muslin

Pattern: Made form my measurements using the instructions here

Year: 1730’s

Notions: White cotton thread, pink ribbon

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate, I would say. I stuck to historically-accurate methods of sewing and the shape, cut, etc. are right. It’s made of cotton, not linen, but there is evidence of cotton chemises from that time.

Hours to complete: I would estimate 10-15. I need to get faster at sewing by hand…or quit getting distracted by mid-century musicals.

First worn: I haven’t worn it yet. I did try it on once before I added the sleeves to check the neckline, but that was it.

Total cost: Somewhere around $5 because I ended up having a little less than half of the fabric left over. Everything else was taken from my stash.