Piping – Is it Needed?

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It’s confession time.

I have not always used nor understood the point of piping.  I didn’t get it.  I didn’t know when to use it, and I was pretty sure it was a waste of my time.

And then, I got a bit better at my sewing.  So I stopped using excuses as to why I didn’t pipe and finally acknowledged that it was because I didn’t know how to use it at all.

Piping, in this context, refers to a 1 1/2″-2″ wide strip of fabric, cut on the bias, which has then been folded in half with a piece of cording place in between.  A tight stitch along the side of the cording creates a smooth finish.  This piping is then used in various places on bodices, and occasionally skirts, to add strength, texture, and contrast.  The tricky part is you have to keep your stitches tight. I mean tight.  You just want to see the cording peeping through in a neat and tidy fashion.  And this is where I would become frustrated and give up…I just couldn’t seem to make my stitches tight enough.

So piping was left on the back burner for several years, until one day when I decided to try it again.

I took a deep breath, stitched as close as as could to the cording and would you believe it!!! – It came out perfectly!!  In fact, it looked so great, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been using this technique all along.  So now I’m back on the piping train and loving it!  And I thought nothing would do but to create a post celebrating this wonderful little technique.

My return to piping on a 1860’s Garibaldi blouse.

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Piping is most commonly found around the armsyce, or armhole, of bodices from the early 20th century and back.  Here is an example of an 1840’s gown from the Tasha Tudor collection:

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Notice the cord like piece between the sleeve gathers and the shoulder?  That’s piping!  While most commonly used in the same fabric as the gown itself, one can sometimes use coordinating fabric to add a bit of pop!

Piping can also be used in between bodice seams. Notice the very small piping along the back seams of this 1860’s bodice as well as the 1810’s Pelisse.

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Piping can also be used to add details to sleeves…

notice the sleeve of this Regency jacket.  The piping adds interest.

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The same can be said for this 1860’s sleeve where the bands have piped edges.

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And let’s not forget the rather advanced skill of putting piping around the edges of bodices to keep a smooth and clean finish!

This 1840’s gold gown has some wonderful examples:

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If you have never tried piping, or haven’t in a long time, I highly recommend bringing back this very fun and relatively easy technique!!

 

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Getting Attached to “Detachable” Items

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If you are interested in getting a different look for your outfit, accessories can make a huge difference!  Today, we mostly turn to scarves and jewelry to spice up or alter our clothes.  However, these go-tos were not always the first choice in decades past.  Many women used what we can think of as “detachable” items that were either pinned, buttoned, or basted onto their clothes. This allowed for everyday clothes to be given a little pick-me-up for a very affordable price.  Simply remove for cleaning and then use on any garment that could use a little something extra.

Collars were the most common form of the “detachable” items, although under sleeves, as seen during the Regency era or during the 1850’s-1860’s, were also quite common.  Mostly made of stark white cotton, linen, or lace, these little beauties came in various sizes, shapes, and textures.

This 1860’s lace capelet/collar is fascinating as it appears to be covering up an evening gown…perhaps making it more appropriate for daywear!

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This woman wears both a detachable collar as well as under sleeves, a very common and economic look during the 1860’s.

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Although some color enhancements on this particular  1860’s image highlight the trim, notice the wide Peter Pan collar and ruffled under sleeves.  

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Here are a few more wonderful examples from the 1860’s of collars, chemisettes, and under sleeves showing the wide variety a woman could create for herself.

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Women’s fashion at the turn of the century also featured detachable collars, although I must say they look extremely uncomfortable to wear!

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Detachable collars also saw a rebirth during the 1930’s in a wide range of sizes, lengths, and finishes!

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So why not create your own detachable item for that blouse or dress that maybe has seen better days!

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A Timeline of Fashion’s Influence

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A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the British men’s clothing company T.M. Lewin.  While I never have personally purchased clothing from them, I was very aware of the name and longevity. Established in 1898, they have spent the past one hundred years providing high quality men’s clothing and are well-known for the introduction of the button down shirt.  So what, may you ask, is a men’s clothing store doing reaching out to me, a women’s historical clothing blog?  Well, the company wished to celebrate 300 years of British influence on men’s fashion and wondered if I would be interested in participating.  At first, I wasn’t sure what I could do.  I mean, I enjoy men’s clothing, but enough to write about it?  I just wasn’t sure.  So I thought and spent some time studying the fabulous timeline graphic they sent me, and realized the large connection between men and women’s clothing. I thoroughly enjoyed my time researching and loved finding examples of women’s fashion that directly corresponded with men’s.

So, with all that said, I decided to participate in their celebration…but with my own twist.  Below you will find sections of their timeline along with examples of women’s fashion which bears influence and connection….although with a bit more grace and femininity!

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The 1700’s

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I choose to highlight the floral impact on fashion for this particular century.  While today, most individuals equate floral prints exclusively as women’s clothing, that was not always the case.  Notice the embroidery on the men’s suit, along with the influence on the floral print of the women’s gown below!  Both are absolutely stunning!

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1770’s Floral Gown from the Digitalt Museum

The 1800’s

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I have a slight obsession with anything Regency.  I just do.  So clearly, out of this century, I had to pick something from the 1810’s.  And what better choice than showing examples of the riding coat!

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1815 Men’s and Women’s Riding Outfits, Kyoto Costume Institute 

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My second choice to highlight from this century is the Sack Coat from the years 1850-1860.  A loose fitting outwear garment that was worn by both men and women.  Similar in shape, color and decorations were the two only real ways that this coat differed.

Men’s Version

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Women’s Version

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The 1900’s

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From this century, the first item that stood out to me is the trench coat.  A item that is just as popular today as it was a hundred years ago.  Similar in color and shape, women tweaked this item to create a coat known as a duster.  A handy little item used to protect one’s gown from those dusty automobile rides!

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Of course, post on 20th century fashion would not be complete without a little 1940’s love.  With the suit a well established staple for men, women, especially during the second world war, followed suit…no pun intended! 🙂  Similar in pattern and shape, both genders embraced the structured look the suit of the 1940’s offered.

Men’s Version

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Women’s Version

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This reciprocal exchange of fashion influence will continue to shape fashion for decades, and I daresay, centuries to come.  But with tweaks here  and there, each gender can appreciate and enjoy something unique!

Many thanks to T.M. Lewin for inspiring this post!!

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A Little Flower Power

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We aren’t even half way through February and I have major garden fever.  I’m craving bulbs, blooms, and bright happy colors.  I’m getting a little sick of looking out my window and seeing various shades of brown.  Sick, I tell you!!

A few weeks ago, it had warmed up to shockingly spring like temperatures.  In fact, we had almost three or four days of such warmth that you almost became used to it.  Except it was January, and not March….and one felt a little depressed.  But it wasn’t until I saw the tip of a little bloom from my spring bulbs that one realized the danger of such warmth.  And sure enough, within two days of the bulb sighting, we received 8 inches of snow.  Now all I can do is stare out the window at the snow covered flower bed, and hope my little bulb is okay.

So until the outside matches up with my wishes, I shall have to content myself with pictures, decorations, and dreams.  And just in case you are in the same boat as I am, I thought I would share some flower inspiration to keep out spirits up!

This 1840’s gown shows the dedication one person had to infuse their clothing with lovely little floral accents.  I wonder if she did this during the dull days of winter?

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While I would make sure to wait to wear these 1920’s shoes once the snow melted, I am most certain they would boost my spirits immensely!  Although, I would have to find a whole new outfit to match them….

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With so many color and pattern choices in this 1930’s ad to choose from, I think I would like a frock in every floral pattern available!

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Even though this would be a little too chilly to wear right now without a sweater, I can’t help but smile at those happy little rosebuds all over this full cotton sun dress!

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Any table would instantly feel more springy and bright with a floral stand like this one from Pier One (link below.)

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Pier One 3-Tiered Stand

So until spring makes it’s way to my area, I shall find ways to bring a little more flower power into my life now!

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An Excerpt from The Magic of Dress, 1911

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With the upcoming holidays, many of us will be attending many festive parties!  With that in mind, here is an excerpt from The Magic of Dress by Grace Margaret Gould written in 1911!

“With the evening comes more elaborate dress.  The fashionable woman needs dinner gowns, theater and opera gowns and ball costumes.  The more cultivated she is, the more she make the art of the dress the study it should be, the finer and more appropriate are the distinctions between these attires.  

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In planning them she must first have a definite idea of the prevailing mode as to fabric and outline.  Then, if she is wise, she will modify the present style to her own type; and whether she is planning one gown or a dozen gowns, let each be distinctive and each suit the occasion on which it is to be worn.  

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It is well to bear in mind that the trimming of a gown may give a distinctive touch to it, and that in a measure it acts as an index to the dress, putting the gown in its own class.  Never use the same type of trimming on your evening gowns.  If the dancing frock is trimmed with artificial flowers of chiffon and satin, have the ball gown trimmed with fur, or gold or silver embroideries. A woman with one trimming is a woman of one-dress idea, and not much of an idea at that.

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It goes without saying that a little good trimming is better than a lot of inferior trimming.  When economy must be given at least a passing thought, a good quality of velvet or brocade is a better investment than some prevailing fad in silks or even some exquisite shade of chiffon.  There is always the next year to bear in mind.”

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From My Sewing Table: November

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I know that this saying usually applies to March, but my goodness has November come in like a lamb.  It has been so mild that I haven’t even needed to wear a jacket…and if you follow my blog, you know that makes me so sad! 😦  Let’s hope that cooler weather shows up soon!

But with the arrival of November comes the official start of the holiday season!  I may or may not be listening to Christmas music already…I can’t help it!!! 🙂  This is my most favorite times of the year and I can’t wait for Thanksgiving to get here!  Many of you may not be as eager as I am for the holidays to arrive, but I embrace them with arms wide open.  The holiday commercials, the special logos on items at the grocery store, the boxes of Christmas cards beginning to be displayed, and of course the start of the most cherished seasonal films and shows!  I mean, who doesn’t love watching This is America Charlie Brown…that poor kid is literally seasick the entire time!

Yet with all that excitement headed my way, I am also struggling.  Struggling with maintaining some balance in my life.  There is just so much going on that at times I can’t seem to get my bearings.  I would be lying if I said I was trying to enjoy each day.  Quite the opposite actually.  I find myself wishing the weeks to go by so my life can return to some sort of normalcy where I can end my day feeling accomplished rather than defeated.  Allowing myself to relax and not wish away this particular time in my life is very difficult.  I know time will go by and this rather trying time will be over…but that doesn’t always work when I’m staring at a to-do list that doesn’t get shorter.

So you see, that’s what I am so eager for the holidays.  They give me hope and excitement that the present will not last forever and so I must choose to celebrate their approach with eagerness and joy.  Not exhaustion and resentment.

***Cue determined squaring of shoulders and lifted chin**

My sewing has been a bit spotty of late, although not completely forgotten.  While I have been able to create a few pieces, my sewing videos have been put on hold for a little bit.  But never fear!  They shall be coming your way soon! 🙂

I know that today’s post may not be the norm for me.  But it is real, honest, and what I am going through.  I know I am not alone, as many of us go through these rough patches every so often.  So for now I shall think happy thoughts about turkey, pies…and oh yes, Charlie Brown doing his best to keep down his lunch on the Mayflower!

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Happy November everyone!  Let’s make it a good one!! 🙂

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An Eye (and Envy) for Detail

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Which came first for me? Learning to sew by hand or by machine?  I’m sitting here trying to remember….I think it was by hand first?  Maybe?  Regardless, when I did learn to sew by hand, I remember as a young girl, sitting as patiently as possible with some old scrap of calico, trying to get my stitches as even and neat as possible.  You know, like Laura Ingalls Wilder had to do when she was a child.  I remember really struggling with not bunching up the thread on the back side of the fabric, and trying to make sure knots didn’t form on the thread itself….it was a very stressful experience! 🙂  But, like so many things in life, the more practice and time I put in, the easier and better looking my hand sewing became.

This is why when I see any examples of hand sewing so stunning that one questions if a machine did it, it makes me simply giddy with envy and happiness.  Whoever that person was who created that magnificent item, valued and understood the importance of practice, practice, practice.  A needed skill and character trait that is so important when trying to better oneself.  I’ve collected four pictures of such garments that really show the skill and detail of really, I mean really, high quality hand sewing!

Let’s begin with this late 1700’s bodice.  I mean, look at all that hand detail!  The stitches, the curves, the ruffles….. absolutely gorgeous!! 

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These stays also show the skill and hand strength needed to create small, identical stitches through very stiff fabric and boning!

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The back of this bodice also shows the delicate hand stitching that can really take a garment up to the next level:

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And of course, the most amazing of all is this 1820’s bonnet, complete with tatting, that shows not only a person’s skill, but the needed height to accommodate the hairstyle of the period!

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Even in the age of computerized sewing machines, high quality hand sewing is still a much needed and much appreciated skill!

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From My Sewing Table: October

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Yesterday I put out the last, finishing detail of my fall decorations: pumpkins!  Pumpkins have to be one of the most diverse vegetables out there.  They come in different colors, shape, sizes, textures, and looks.  And the more various types pumpkins you display, the more colorful and decorated your house appears.  I am especially excited about the pumpkins I purchased this year, and hope that we are still a few weeks away from frost so I can enjoy them!

Now that football season is upon us, I have been looking for a sewing project that I can work on while sitting on the couch.  As many of you may know, when you do garment sewing, you are tied to your sewing machine.  And if your sewing machine is in another room, or on a another floor, it becomes tricky (and inconvenient) to move it about.  So, after some thinking, I decided to work on a quilted jacket.  A simply, mindless project that allows me to sit comfortably on the couch with everyone, yet still feel like I’m not wasting a day that could be spent sewing! 🙂  Here are a few examples of some quilted pieces that one can do:

A late 1700’s quilted petticoat

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A Regency Era Redingote

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A 1930’s quilted Lame Jacket

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I decided to create a 1810’s quilted Spencer jacket.  So the past few weekends have been spent quilting each individual pattern piece.  Working on this jacket has been great fun and I am excited to see how the finished product turns out!

October is one of my favorite months as the cooler weather brings with it a renewed sense of energy and excitement.  It is a time to enjoy a warm cup of apple cider while watching the leaves change to the brightest shades of gold, red, and orange.
Enjoy my friends!

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