Witch’s Castle Part II

My brother wasn’t the only one that got dressed up at the Witch’s castle last summer for a photoshoot. We packed my and my sister’s dresses and had fun trading outfits and tromping around the structure (and hiding from hikers who were giving us weird looks).

It’s a very fun place to explore and take pictures.


Lida Rose Corset (HSM #6)

This project held a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time using a printed PDF pattern, sizing up a pattern, and inserting a busk. I’m very proud of how it all turned out, considering the fact that (strictly speaking) this is the first corset I’ve ever made and that I was always terrified of making one. Turns out it’s a lot easier than I had expected!

The pattern I used is a free one, Hip Curve Corset, by Ralph Pink. It came only in a UK size 10 so I spent an afternoon measuring and resizing it to fit me. I incorporated into this corset some of the adjustments I made when sewing my stays last year.

Please keep your fingers crossed that I did everything right; I haven’t actually tried on the finished product yet!


I’m in love with this corset. I adore the hue of the purple and the feel of the silk and the detail of the lace at the top. Corsets from the Edwardian period have always held a particular fascination for me (well, lingerie in general) so it’s thrilling to have one for myself.


The inside is a little crazy, I will admit. I ran out of purple tape to use for the bones and started using peach instead (it’s less saturated in real life) and some of the seam allowances are poking out inside so I definitely could be neater next time.


How does this item have to do with travel, you may ask? Well, I made this corset specifically to take on a trip with me in the fall. To make it easy to pack, carry, and put on I kept it fairly lightly boned, left the garter attachments off the bottom, and used two layers.

As for the story behind the name of the corset, I spent a good chunk of my time sewing with The Music Man (2003) on in the background. I may or may not have watched it (literally) five times…

So, naturally, I had the songs stuck in my head for days and one of my favorites is Lida Rose so there you go!

The Challenge: Travel (HSM #6)
Fabric: White cotton duck, purple silk
Pattern: Hip Curve Corset by Ralph Pink
Year: c. 1905
Notions: White thread, busk, silver grommets, white lace, zip ties
How historically accurate is it? Don’t even ask lol
Hours to complete: I can’t even guess. I worked on it for about 5 solid days throughout the month.
First worn: Not yet!
Total cost: Zip ties were the only thing I actually bought for the project ($6). Everything else was from my stash (if I remember correctly: 1 yard cotton duck ($6), 1 yard purple silk ($3), busk ($3.25), and the other pieces didn’t have a significant cost).

Yellow Waistcoat (HSM #7)

I’m already thinking about Halloween.

Correction: I’m already sewing for Halloween.

And, considering the number of garments on my list to get done in just four short months, I should probably be farther than I am. *Gulp*

At least I can check the first thing off my list: a 1690’s waistcoat for my brother. He will be portraying a villager in New England, of an as-of-yet undetermined status. Wealthy? Poor? Judge? Clergyman? We’ll pinpoint it later.

Doing research for this project was really hard. I found hardly any sources on 1690’s New England American fashion and even fewer pieces of artwork from the period to study. What I did find showed hardly any details of the clothing, too. Mostly just basic cut and color for formal-wear.

Self-Portrait by Thomas Smith; American c. 1680

A couple of the best sources I found were “17th Century Links” at Isis’ Wardrobe and the “Getting Dressed for Men’s Guide” 1680s-1720s from Reconstructing History. Piecing some things together, I decided to base the waistcoat on Simplicity 4923 and go from there.

I used the same adjustments I made to the pattern for him last year in addition to extending it down a few inches to reach mid-thigh and making the front straight instead of curved. Here’s my reasoning behind it:

“…waistcoat at first extending below hip, thigh-length and collarless, c. 1670, and to the knee or below, 1670-1720…with or without sleeves…” – Western World Costume: An Outline History by Carolyn G. Bradley p. 198

sourcesourcesourcesource – sourcesource

I tried to tone down the illustrations and make the waistcoat suitable for a Puritan setting.

For the buttons, I found “Buttons” by The 1642 Tailor particularly informative and I followed the “How to Make Wool Buttons” tutorial by the Goodwyfe to make them.

 They were really fun to make; I’ve never done ones quite like it before. As for the pocket flaps, I kept them relatively simple (at least compared to last year’s) and I made them functional this time! There are actually pockets under them.

I sewed the whole thing by hand and did it all in less than 24 hours. I began about 7pm Saturday night and we were outside taking pictures of the final product by 5pm Sunday.

We took the photos just as the sun was starting to go down, so there’s a bit of color variation in the fabric depending on what area of the yard we were standing in. The second and last photos are most true to color; it’s a rich, buttery yellow in real life.

I’d pay more attention to the buttonholes next time, although I’m not too displeased with how they came out. They just could be better. The stitches aren’t close enough together and the floss I used to do them matched the color of the fabric in the house. As soon as we took it outside, the buttonholes stood out, white, against the waistcoat. Sigh.

At the same time as I was sewing the waistcoat, I took a few minutes to update his Renaissance shirt and bring it into the 17th century (and beyond) by adding buttons.

As for the inside, it’s not as pretty as the outside. I didn’t line it because the fabric is so thick and warm…plus I didn’t have any linen lying around. So…unlined it will remain! I pinked the edges to prevent unraveling and save myself some time. I’m not sure that’s it a period finishing technique but I know that pinking has been around for a few centuries before  the waistcoat, so it’s not too outside the realm of possibilities. At least that’s what I like to tell myself. Anyone know the real answer?

The Challenge: Monochrome (HSM #7)
Fabric: Yellow wool
Pattern: Simplicity 4923 as a base
Year: 1690’s
Notions: Cream thread, pale yellow embroidery floss. Fabric buttons.
How historically accurate is it? Eh…there was a lot of conjecture on this piece. I’d estimate around 60-70%.
Hours to complete: One day.
First worn: Sunday for pictures!
Total cost: Everything from my stash. I didn’t pay more than $5 for the whole length of fabric from Goodwill and I used about 2/3 of it total.

Pirate Vest at the Witch’s Castle

Last August I got to enjoy a few weeks of free time before starting my new job. To make the most of the summer, I rounded up my siblings and we had a lot of fun exploring and going out to places we’d never been.

One of the things we did was go down to Oregon for a day and poke around Portland. We tried to hit up Voodoo Doughnuts but the line wrapped two blocks down the street so we moved on to our main activity of the trip:

Hiking to the Witch’s Castle

The “castle” is located in Forest Park and is actually a rest area built in the first half of the 20th century although there are plenty of stories about the area’s sordid history and its supposed hauntings.

It was a gorgeous, easy hike. Only about 20 minutes from where we parked and with lots of scenic areas to enjoy. Much of the structure was covered with graffiti, some less appreciated than others, but there was a pretty sweet witch.

There were two miracles that happened that day:

  1. That this sweet girl made the whole day, there AND back, without needing to go to the bathroom. I don’t know how (or why) she did but we were sure glad she didn’t have an accident in the car!
  2. That my brother agreed to do a photoshoot.

I don’t know what made him agree to it, but I brought along his pirate vest and accessories and he agreed to put them on and pose!

He’s so handsome! Last August he didn’t have any pants to go with his outfit but he sure does now!

I’ll have to find a way to convince him to dress up again so we can get the full effect…

Lemon Apron

I love lemons.

So it was only natural that, when I saw this fabric at Joann’s a few years ago, I had to buy it. Since then I’ve debated long and hard about what it should become. Skirt? Dress? Nothing seemed quite right. It was dangerously close to being made into roman blinds for the bathroom at one point but I ended up hanging on to it because it just didn’t fit.

I got to the point where I was tired of having it just sit in my stash, unused. I really wanted to find something to make out of it that I would really love. Enter: Simplicity 1221.

Every time I cook I wear an apron. This did cause a slight problem when the only one I had owned was in the wash so I had the idea to dig out a reproduction 1940’s pattern from my drawer and make another one to join the rotation.


It didn’t take long to make; only a couple of hours. I think the longest part was picking which bias tape to use to edge it! I had a lot of fun with it and learned a lot about double-fold bias tape which I had actually never used before.

The first time I wore it was on Easter to help make dinner. I was nervous to wear it, scared I would get it really dirty, but I told myself that the apron was made to be used and to just enjoy it.


It was a lot of fun. Dinner was great and the company was awesome. I wear the apron a lot now and the lemons always make me smile. I’m happy to say it’s still in really good shape, too! Even if it wasn’t, though, I still have enough to make another one should that day ever come.

Rosy 1920’s Dress – An Unfortunate Outcome

lots o lots 097 lots o lots 093

Oh, this dress.

This dress was supposed to have been for the first Historical Sew Monthly challenge for this year, procrastination, but in the true spirit of the prompt it’s not going to be finished for a while longer.

This dress has been in the making for about a year now. Last year I frankensteined  together a 1920’s dress from a Simplicity pattern and a t-shirt that ended up being super comfortable for summer-wear. Lightweight + no waistline = the perfect breezy lounging dress. Around August I started planning another version of the dress that would be basically the same shape except sleeveless. I sketched out my design, envisioning small, pink roses embroidered at the neckline on a background of pale blue.

Well, the fabric and the sketch languished in the back of my closet for months. Summer slipped away and making a dress for the warm weather slid down to the bottom of my to-do list. In the new year I thought this would be a good project to take up again, especially in anticipation of spring being on its way.


I cut it out and stitched it up a couple weeks into January and was making good progress until I got side-tracked by working on my first commission (yay!) so it wasn’t until the last day of the month that I revisited the dress.

e2   20160131_195259w2

Turns out my hasty work wasn’t all that well thought out – the top is too tight – so I set it aside to work on later while I mull over ideas on how to fix it.


There isn’t much fabric left so my plan is to cut out a U-shape that echoes the shape of the godets in the skirt. Then I can cut a slightly bigger piece to insert, probably embroidered with the roses I had been planning, that will give me more room. I’ve got to think it through a little bit first, though, since I’ve never run into this problem before.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas for how I can remedy this situation? Any suggestions would be most appreciated!

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.

New Skirt 195.JPG

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.

New Skirt 201.JPG

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

New Skirt 294.JPG

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.

Pocket Hoops + Petticoats

A couple more pieces from what I wore on Halloween…

Pocket Hoops:


I used this panier-along tutorial for the entire process which was very easy to follow and quick to make. I spent an evening preparing for the project, deconstructing an old pillowcase so I could use its fabric and drafting the pattern pieces out of ads from the newspaper.


I cut out the pieces right before going to bed and had it all done by noon the next day. It was such a quick project that I didn’t think to stop along the way to take progress pictures but here you can see them right after they were finished. I strung them on a length of white cord and tied them around Barbara so I could start measuring for the petticoats.

The tutorial pointed out that adding slits was optional. I chose to add them and spent a lovely day being able to carry all of my belongings around with me and stockpile candy to hand out to the kids.



The tutorial suggests using basket cane for boning which I’d never had any experience with. Shopping around a bit online, I purchased what turned out to be a rather large quantity (750 feet!) of 2.25mm round basket reed. I tried to balance price against diameter but one strand of it was too thin to provide much support.

To counteract that, I used ten pieces of cane bundled together in each boning channel. Ten pieces together were definitely strong enough to support the hoops and my skirts atop it all.


Fabric: Blue, 70/30 linen/cotton blend (recycled from an old pillowcase)

Pattern: Drafted using this panier-along tutorial 

Year: 18th century

Notions: Thread, cane, cord to tie around my waist

How historically accurate is it? Accurate fabric content, though it’s a blend which I’m guessing knocks it down a few pegs. Partly hand-sewn.

Hours to complete: 3-4 hours.

First worn: Halloween 2015

Total cost: Fabric ($0), cord ($1), cane ($13) = $14 total.

Under & Outer Petticoat:

To make both petticoats I followed this 18th century petticoat tutorial. Another quick and easy guide to follow, I had them both done in a little over 24 hours. Honestly, the part that took the longest was just hemming all the fabric!

They’re both pleated onto bias tape which tie in the front and the back, leaving slits down the side of each side seam long enough that I can access the pocket hoops underneath.

Fabric: White cotton, green and blue synthetic something-or-other

Pattern: Drafted using this 18th century petticoat tutorial

Year: 18th century

Notions: Thread and bias tape

How historically accurate is it? Accurate with regards to cut and shape. Not so much the fiber content, color (?), or use of the machine

Hours to complete: 5-6 hours altogether

First worn: Halloween 2015

Total cost: Fabric (~$15), tape ($0)= $15 total.


As a bonus I wanted to make mention of what I used as stockings that night. If I’d have had more time I would have liked to make a set of stockings and garters but this fell to the wayside and I had to scramble on the morning of.

At first I had thought to not wear anything on my legs but it was too cold that day. My next thought was to wear tights but I was wary of how that would turn out with stays. I remembered a blog post that I had read awhile back (I can’t find its link for the life of me!) where a lady cut the legs off her tights and used them as 18th century stockings.

She suggested cutting them off as far up as you could go, leaving a bit of the different (“control top”) fabric at the top to keep them from unraveling and rolling them down. She had luck with them staying so I thought to give it a try!


I chopped up a pair of pink tights that I hardly ever wore. They rolled right down to my knees and stayed there the whole night. I made a pair for my brother to use as well though he had a harder time keeping his up. He didn’t want to roll them down as his pants pulled up a few inches when he lifted his legs or sat so he just tried to keep them pulled up.


Mine were pretty muddy and stained by the end of the night. It rained some that day and I walked through a few puddles around the neighborhood. I hadn’t realized that the green dye from the shoes I made would run. The stain didn’t lessen at all with washing so I guess they’re  now a pair. The shoes held up great, though!

The Renaissance Project – Lucrezia

So, continuing the series about last Halloween (just in time for this year’s)…
The dress that I wore – the Lucrezia dress:


 After completing my sister’s dress, I turned my attention to what I would be wearing. I searched and sorted through a ton of portraits and paintings, looking for just the right dress for inspiration. It happened when I came upon this image:
The Betrothal by Meister des Jahrhunderts, c. 1470.

I fell in love with the dress the bride is wearing. It was one of the few examples I could find of a dress that didn’t feature front lacing which was something that I desperately wanted to avoid for fear of not being supportive enough.

So I sketched out the dress to take with me to the fabric store. There I picked up some gold trim reminiscent of what the bride is wearing and looked around for a suitably shimmery red fabric, but couldn’t find anything that was within my price range.

Going home, I sorted through my stash and found just what I had been looking for: three and a half yards of a dark candy apple red satin (at least, I think it’s satin – I’m terrible at identifying fabric). I’d bought it almost two years earlier when it was on huge clearance at Joann’s. I believe I got it for around $2.50/yd.


I started working on October 18. I draped a bodice muslin on my duct-tape dress form, Barbara. I couldn’t really fit the pattern on myself so I had to approximate and eyeball the fit in the mirror when I tried it on.

When it looked right, I cut out two more layers – fashion fabric and some leftover sturdy plaid – and sandwiched it all together. The bodice had two pieces, front and back, that were almost identical. Both sides were left open for lacing.

When that’s done, I finish the seams all the way around.

At this point it’s lacking support so I add some zip ties on the front, back, and sides. I put five lacing rings on each side (jewelry toggle clasps) and cartridge-pleat the skirt front and back to the bottom of the bodice. Once it’s on, I sew up the sides until about four or five inches below the bottom of the bodice and hem the bottom so I can wear heels with it.
It’s finally to a point where I can try it on to check the fit and I’m incredibly happy with how it’s turned out so far. It was a lot of guess-and-checking up to that point but my estimates had been right on! I don’t have it pictured, but I was able to sew on the trim around the neckline pretty fast that night and the dress was done! Unfortunately, by that point, I had misplaced the cut of fabric I had set aside for sleeves so I had to skip them. (Of course, I found it in a bag about three days after Halloween.)
The other garment that I needed was a camicia, which was very quick to make. If I remember correctly, I followed this tutorial which was quite easy and straightforward.
It’s floppy and loose and long and flowy and I love it! I accidentally made it a bit too long so I’ll have to re-hem it eventually, but it’s great for now. The sleeves have ties on the cuffs but other than that it’s nothing too extraordinary.
20141031_144728 20141031_144802
The final product. On Halloween – rolling up my sleeves to get some final decorating done.

Final Numbers

Fabric: Satin and cotton

Pattern: None

Year: c. 1500

Notions: Thread, lacing rings, white and gold trim, black ribbon

Hours to complete: Seven days.

Total cost: $15 for fabric. $2 for trim. Everything else from stash. Altogether, about $17.

Post Zero: Master Post

Part One: Background and Research

Part Two: Caterina (my sister’s outfit)

Part Three: Lucrezia (my outfit)

Part Four: Lorenzo (my brother’s outfit)

Part Six: Wearing it All (Halloween 2014)

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.