April 11, 2012

Regency dress muslins enjoy a second life

Violet has been wearing her red and white regency girl's dress I made her in 2010 around with a bonnet, which is a great aid to playing Little House on the Prairie. We were having a hard time keeping it washed and available for the frequency she wanted to wear it, so I though finishing the muslins I made as precursors for these dresses would be a relatively easy way to get another dress in the same style.

We just finished them last weekend, and they turned out really cute!

I was able to find four muslins from this pattern in the sewing boxes, in various states of finish. Two of them didn't fit the girls, but two were the same sizes as the final red and white ones ended up being, so were good candidates for finishing.

I decided to tackle Violet's first.  To finish this garment I needed to:
  • deal with the raw edges in the sleeve seam allowances and armscye seam
  • turn in and fell the sleeve bands to the sleeve lining
  • sew the bodice lining down to the underskirt on the inside
  • install buttonholes and buttons on the back opening
  • hem the skirt and underskirt
  • add trims per Violet's design
The sleeve areas came first. Violet helped me to fell the sleeve band to the lining on the inside of the sleeve.

Then I tacked on Hug Snug seam binding over the raw edges on the sleeve seam and around the armscye.

Next I felled the bodice lining to the underskirt, with more help from Violet.

For the hemming, it was already short enough so I decided to try my hemming foot for the Wheeler & Wilson. It actually worked pretty well, I'd say better than my one experience with a rolled hem foot on the electric Kenmore.

 It tended to have trouble when going over seams though and it was hard to keep a consistent width of material folding in and over; probably gets a lot better with practice.

Next I put in handmade buttonholes on the back and their matching buttons. These turned out better than my last attempt, though still nothing I'd be proud to show a tailor. I had a little bit of tacking and stuff to do at the placket leading into the button area.

Things were looking good at this point, and Violet was quite pleased with the progress.

For embellishments, Violet requested a black ribbon with a flower on it, so we put the ribbon on, which she helped with.

I got on the internets and found a nice site for making flowers out of ribbon. Mine didn't look exactly like the picture, but I added a few more petals and it was decent looking. I cut a little piece of scalloped off white felt, topped it with a silver button, and sewed the whole stack down with silk buttonhole twist.

A year or two ago I bought a vintage lace collar and cuffs off ebay. I don't remember how much it cost, perhaps something like $15. This lace was far more intricate and beautiful than any new trims I've ever seen on garments or in a sewing store. Showing its wear a bit, but it looks great. Anyway, Violet picked this out of the trim box and asked if we could use it. I said sure; I did buy it to use and if its gone I'll have an excuse to buy more vintage lace! It will probably get wrecked with all the hard wear, food stains, and machine washing. I'm ok with that, though I wrestle a little with the feeling that its akin to destroying a museum piece. Oh well, I think the world can spare a little vintage lace, don't you?

So the dress was completed, with a high degree of satisfaction all around.

After finishing up Violet's dress, I assessed the requirements to turn Millie's muslin into something cute and wearable. This is what needed to happen:
  • cover raw edges in sleeve seams
  • fell bodice lining to skirt on inside
  • hem the bottom
  • add trims for maximum cuteness
On this one I had experimented with a bodice lining but no sleeve lining. I had hand sewn the bodice lining around the armscye seam allowances, but then decided it was going to be easier to just line the sleeve on the final dress. So all that I had to do for this one was hand sew some Hug Snug around the raw edges and clean up the incomplete machine stitching on the sleeve bands.

This muslin was only really intended for sizing so I didn't put in an underskirt. The bodice lining was felled to the skirt itself, but the outside ribbon covered the stitches showing on the outside from the felling operation.

Millie wanted her hem a bit higher than Violet's, so I marked it and didn't cut much off other than to even things up, but instead folded it up and under. This being a flared skirt, it was essential to run a basting stitch around the hem to gather in the extra material and make it fit within the smaller diameter of the skirt itself. I pressed it where I wanted it to stay and did the hem stitch by hand. I rather prefer the result to the machine stitching, and it didn't take that long, since this is a dress for a 3 yr old after all.

The buttonholes and buttons were already machine done in this one. I considered taking the buttons off and reattaching them since they don't have any slack in their mounting, and are thus too tight against the buttonhole side fabric when the bodice is closed up. But I left them as is for now.

Millie liked Violet's dress, but wanted a pink and brown ribbon along with the black one. I put these on by hand in sequence, though if I did it again I would machine the two ribbons together and then apply them with hand stitching. I made up a smaller flower out of black ribbon and put it on the same way as Violet's.

For the lace, I joined the two vintage lace cuffs and put them around the neck opening similar to what I did on Violet's dress with the vintage lace collar.

I finished these dresses last Saturday, and the girls wore them together for the first time on Sunday. 

We had a little brunch and had one family friend and some of our neighbors over; the dresses went over well.

The kids wore long sleeve shirts and tights under them since it was a little chilly outside. They are going to give an invitation to brunch to the neighbors in these pictures.

Becky made some ice cream later in the day, which was a popular move with the girls.

In the afternoon, I thought it would be fun to try to whip up some bonnets to go with the dresses. So I wrapped some butcher paper around Violet's head and marked on it with a Sharpie, then cut out some shapes and worked up a muslin version. The visor has a layer of sew in interfacing between two muslin layers, while the back part is a single layer, sewn in as a flat shape, but then gathered up with a ribbon at the rear of the head.

It ended up being kind of too big for Violet, but it fits on Becky. She said it makes her look like a giant baby.

I wasn't completely happy with the lines of the back section, so I modified the shape and started working on a revised version for Millie. Not done with that yet though.


Anonymous said...

Those dresses are BEAUTIFUL!!!! What a talented man you are!!! Lucky little girls!

Chris in CNY

Andrea Maria said...

Amazing! The girls look really cute and one can see how happy they are wearing the dresses! Congratulations!

Rebecca said...

As a long-time user of S & S patterns, I was delighted to see your revamp of the muslins for your little girls. The gowns turned out beautifully! I especially like the trim combinations, including the vintage lace collar.