Saturday, July 27, 2013

My New Homespun Dress

I know this is probably not the best way to begin a post, but I sure hope I don't actually put 86 pictures in here.  And if I do, well then I'm sorry :D (ok, maybe I'm not sorry :P)

So now to really begin.  

For the past, I don't know, maybe 3 or 4 Civil War events we've done, I've worn this outfit: a white blouse (now too tight across the bust) and a large (I mean large!) plaid skirt. Now this was, a decent outfit, and I really like it.  But who doesn't want to wear a dress?  And hey, I need to be dressed down some times too, not every event is an upper class plantation owner's daughter's impression.  Thus, the need/want for a dress :D. 
that's me up on the porch
After much pondering, I decided upon making a dress out of homespun.  Silk, wool, calico, and such things sounded nice, but expensive and not quite was I was looking for.  I bought 7 yards (the lady actually gave me 8!) for $20 which was great :D!  The buttons are gold (fake gold of course), and there are 9 of them down the front. I hand did the buttonholes following the pattern instructions.

Originally, I had planned on wearing the dress without a hoopskirt.  The hoopskirt I wore with my skirt/shirt outfit had a 120 circumference, and considering I'm 5'4" with a 26 inch waist, that skirt was HUGE.  And my hoopskirt was an epic fail buy off ebay. :/  But I think I was on the phone with Bascha when I had the idea to put tucks in it to draw up the length, and poof the skirts more.  And deep down I wanted to wear a hoop, so I made it work.  And it works really nice, because with a hoop, the dress is at the 16-17 age marker, making me not quite courting age, and that makes my mom feel better :P

The pattern I used was Past Patterns 701 Gathered/Tucked bodice pattern.  I really wanted coat sleeves, so this was nice that they had that option. I had to alter the pattern by doing what is called a Full Bust Adjustment. My bust was a size 20 and my waist a size 10.  Because it's just "the girls" up front, not large ribs, I needed to fix it to fit that.  The instructions I used were taken from the Sewing Academy, and if you are in need of this alteration, you can also read the steps here.   I did take pictures of the whole process, which I will share with you. :D
Past Patterns 701

view B, with coat sleeves
So here's what I did and how I did it. I did this to a size 12 pattern.
first I marked about 4 o'clock on the armhole (the triangle you see)

then I drew a line up the middle of the pleat, extending it about 1/2 inch past
the marked pleat

then I drew diagonal lines from the tops of these "pleat lines"
to the triangle at the armhole

then I slashed it on the lines

I figured out how much I needed to add to the bust (about 6 inches), and then did some
math to find out how much I need to add to each pleat.  I think I ended up doing almost
an inch.  I'd have to go check my sticky note though :D

then I taped this down to a new sheet of pattern paper. 

this is the new pattern piece.  And the lens cap was there to give the
camera something to focus on.
This is what it then looked like, very full (the Left side is the properly
pleated side), and still with excess waist fabric.  This is what I get for having a 14 inch
bust/waist difference :O  
Because I had to add so much fabric to the bust part of the bodice when I altered it, I also had to add this to the waist.  I had read once, that to make your waist look smaller and your bust look larger (with a plaid), you could take the waist and make it larger, and then when you dart/gather/pleat it in it will give the illusion that you're larger chested.  I am already very large chested, and I'm not unhappy about that necessarily, but I did not want to make it even more noticeable.  I'm not really interested in "increasing" my bust. :P So before I cut my dress out, I cut a lot of the waist off int he pattern piece, and then my mom pleated it while it was on me.  I think it looks fine.  Here's the fitting.

The skirt is 5 yards, and like I mentioned earlier, is gauged.    
the 3 stitching lines
I did a hem facing...but I think it was too small.  It was only 3 1/2 inches.
oh well. :P  I used a running stitch to finish it off.

the outside of the skirt where the running stitches of the hem are visible
The bodice back has knife pleats and an inverted box pleat in the center.  I stitched the pleats along the edges for several inches, just to make the back not too balloony. :P
Pinning the bodice back tucks/pleats

the sewn bodice back tucks/pleats
 For the seam allowances, I used a method called overcasting, which is like whip stitches over the seam allowances to help prevent it from fraying.  I then stitched it down to the bodice. For the armhole seam allowances, I just trimmed them really short and then overcasted the edges.
side seam seam allowance

armhole seam allowance
I sewed piping along the neck edge, the sleeve edge, the armholes, and the waistband.  For the cording I used cotton yarn.
neckline piping

neckline piping
the sleeve cuff is piped

the sleeve cuff split is piped
the armhole piping
the inside of the sleeve, showing the hook (thread eye is on
the outside of sleeve)
I know it's kinda hard to see, but this was the finished
dress the first time I put it on.  You can see my petticoats are
eek, sticking out.  It's partly because I unfastened them when buttoning the dress...
the buttons :) The bodice came out very well, and fits smoothly.  My only
problem was I made it a little long in the waist, so there are some wrinkles there
that are not stress lines, just extra bunching. :O But the bust
fits well I think. :)
I was able to wear my dress today for a Living History we had, and that was really cool.  Here are a couple pictures without the petti's showing :) Sadly though, no one got a picture of Bascha and me together :(  I got to wear my new bonnet though ('nother post coming soon!).
Brittany and me

Rachel and me
Today the guys and girls danced, and I thought I'd put a few pictures on here for you to see as well.  I danced a wee-bit, but I lost my breath pretty quick and had to quit. The ones of Taylor (the girl in regency, with her hair down) are my favorite-she was just having a ball! 
Lining up for a Scottish Country dance

Taylor and Caroline

Our wonderful Violinist :)
a few soldiers sitting on the porch and one of my little brothers. 


  1. Awesome job! It looks like you had lots of fun. I love your piping! And there was homespun at Hancock's the other day that looked just like yours!

  2. Thank you! I did have lots of fun :) I love my piping too-piping is so fun to make and it really adds a finished touch to the dress. I didn't even look at Hancock's for homespun...maybe I need to check that next time I'm in there! :D

  3. You are impressive! That dress was amazing ;-) I wish I had some of your talent - I've never made a dress for myself before! :-)

    1. Thank you Marie! And you do have talent, you can quilt and I cannot :D I had fun shopping with you today!