Thursday, November 28, 2013

Butter-colored ballgown

Hello, friends!

A few weeks ago, I got the notion in my head that I might want to sew a ballgown soon - in fact, I didn't want to fix the cotton dance dress I have, so I was thinking of trying to complete the dress by Remembrance Day weekend (November 22nd-24th).

However, I was not sure if I'd have the chance to get silk, so I even was considering using something less ideal from one of the big box stores, which would also mean that I would not panic if I had some trouble with fittings.

As it turned out, though, I was able to move things along much more quickly! The pictures will show you how it went!

Garment Data:
- Type: Civil War ballgown
- Date made: November 21st, 2013
- Pattern: Self-drafted, with assistance
- Fabric: Silk, with pre-embroidered flowers
- Trim: Self-fabric piping
- Time to finish: one week! (or approximately 40-50 hours of work)
- Notes:

On November 11th, I was able to purchase some silk (and some lawn!). You can see both colors of silk I bought (a bit of a splurge, but I'll use it all! Not a waste!).

Left-to-Right: A butter-yellow silk with embroidery of red cherry blossoms, a green silk "plaid" with gold and a bit of teal, and sheer white cotton lawn.

A close-up of the butter silk
I decided to use the butter-yellow silk first - it really spoke to me, and I started to picture it as a gown right away! There was also enough of a separate piece of yellow silk that was plain (no embroidery), to use for a bodice.

I had a chance to get help making the bodice pattern! Karen Mynes offered to help me out, so we spent the evening of Friday the 15th of November pinning and cutting until we had a muslin mock-up that I could cut apart and turn into a pattern!

So I consider the 15th to be the day I started the dress :)

This is the muslin ballgown bodice, cut open (not quite all the way yet).

My prep table (which actually also happens to be a sewing machine table, that opens up to the side and the machine flips up from within. Once I replace the drive band, it will be usable!). By the end, this table was a lot more full and cluttered!

The ballgown bodice muslin pattern, completely cut apart.

We actually had a chance to pin a muslin mock-up for a day dress bodice, too!

And the day bodice, cut apart and ready to trace. I'll post more pictures of it, once I actually use it. The plan is actually to make a second bodice for the ballgown! This will turn it into a day dress, depending on which bodice I wear, which makes the dress as a whole far more versatile. I have enough of the plain yellow silk to make this matching bodice, high neckline, long sleeves, and all!

A close-up of the muslin ballgown bodice front. Karen was drawing directly on the muslin (which feels really weird when you are pinned into it!). I would never have been able to do a bodice pattern as quickly, nor as well fitted, without her help!

All the pattern pieces, traced on to my pattern paper (actually, priority mail envelopes! A tip from Karen). Left-to-Right: Day Bodice front, Day Bodice back, Ballgown Bodice front, Ballgown side back, Ballgown back.

Laying out the pattern on the plain silk.

The pieces now cut out in silk and in muslin (for the lining) and pinned together for flat-lining.

A few steps later: all pieces sewn or pinned together, the darts pinned. This is the magic moment when it goes from being flat pieces to being an actual garment!

Bodice, from the back. Still a lot to do!

Bodice from the front.

Pleating the skirt (inside-out). I ended up doing 2 inch knife pleats all the way around (though if I ever end up re-doing it, I would go for directional knife pleats left and right, with box pleats front and back center). I had originally contemplated putting the embroidery running vertically, with large box pleats to showcase the embroidery, but yielded to good judgement and went with the horizontal look (which is also evident in historical pieces and photographs).
Waistband pinned, waiting for basting and for the hem facing around the bottom (for weight and protection).

Close-up of the waistband (right-side out).

The skirt, over the hoop.

All the bits pinned together, but no closures sewn in yet, no sleeves yet, no hem facing yet.... my "last two days" sewing list was quite long!!! Long hours were spent sewing, every night!

Everything pinned, first fitting, front.

Everything pinned, first fitting, back.
I finished the very last things on the night of Thursday the 21st.
At the ball!

The dress worked well, though I noticed a few very small adjustments I'll be making...

I may change the neckline still, too... I feel like it could be farther out on my shoulders. At least, maybe the next time I use the pattern.

And, last but not least, the dress in its native habitat!!!
So it took a lot of effort, but I think, for my first ballgown, it turned out fabulously! It took me 6 days of really intense effort, 6 or 8 hours a day, but I'm really happy with it! I'll still do the day bodice for the dress as well. I can't wait till the next dress I sew!

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Remembrance Day, Gettysburg

Well, Ladies and Gents!

This week was most auspicious. On November 19th, 1863, President Lincoln spoke a few words (after the main speaker had given a speech of nearly 2 hours, I believe!). His very short address became famous, and one of the weekends near the anniversary of his speech has become a recurring event, with ceremonies, speeches, parades, and, most importantly, balls! (I jest - and yet, I found the balls to be perhaps the funnest - if not the most important - part of the day!).

Though some events happen already on Friday, I was not able to leave home early enough to participate in these (such as Friday night balls, nor much downtown shopping).
Instead, I got to the area quite late, after a dark and rainy (and somewhat foggy) drive. The night clerk and I got to chatting, and she expressed an interest in seeing my ballgown! I promised to stop by the desk the next night on my way in from the ball to show her. :)

The next day, Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 - the year being exactly 150 years after the original event, and thus quite significant - was a full one:
At first a ceremony, then a parade, another ceremony, then the ball!
And what would a post be without pictures?

Friday night: the hotel closet full of ironed and prepped clothes for the next morning!
Saturday morning, early: A sailor, standing outside the hotel. Later, I saw a whole unit of sailors and marines marching in the parade.
Yes, that is Sgt Schulz, from Hogan's Heroes. Odd, but fun - the first reenactor I speak to on Saturday, and he's from the wrong century!

Of course, I got no pictures of the first ceremony - oops! It was at a monument, and included wreath-laying to honor the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic - a union veteran's group), among others. It included a truly phenomenal delivery of the Gettysburg Address by a Lincoln reenactor! On the downside, it was frightfully cold, as a biting wind came shearing across the fields.
LINK: Pictures of the Woolson's Monument Ceremony (I'm in picture #7! A clue: my bonnet has green ribbon ties)

The parade line-up. These are the ladies who graciously allowed me to walk with their group!
The ladies' groups lining up behind us. The parade was quite long!
The parade ended up being quite long. I didn't see all of it, though I watched a bit of what had been behind us, once we got to the end. It was an impressive show!
LINK: A video of the parade. I'm in minute 6:43.

A view of the "Hands Over the Wall" ceremony (100th anniversary).

Mr. Allen Loew, who graciously accompanied me to the ball later on.

Another view of the reenactors lined up for the "Hands Over the Wall"

At the ball!

Another view of the new ballgown (another post to follow, about how I made the dress!)

At the break between dinner and the dance, as they cleared the ballroom of the tables.

And a view of my hairstyle (there were also ringlets coming down from it, but apparently the camera slipped upward - I didn't get a good picture of them!)
And last but not least, me on the floor, dancing in my new dress!
LINK: I show up in photo 120 on this photo website!
All in all, it was a fabulous weekend! The drive home was slow and snowy, but smooth going, and I'm very glad I went. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah