This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

My photo
HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Squirrel Report

For those of you not familiar with the term "Squirrel", it's used in describing as being sidetracked by all things pretty. My husband has even called me Squirrel a few times, so either I'm that bad, or I can consider it a Badge of Honor.

I continued working steadily on my Cranberry 1830s Project, and once that was to a point where I knew I could comfortably have it ready in time for an upcoming fashion show, I was able to start on my other two 1830s gowns. And herein lays the Squirrel. I normally refer to it as my Assembly Line Sewing, aka, cutting out 2 or more gowns from one pattern; sewing parts of them all at the same time; and doing all the easy mindless parts (like the plain ole skirts) all in one sitting.  If it's a hard-to-do part, by the time the 2nd or 3rd round comes up, I have all the bugs worked out and I know it's ingrained in my brain now.
So the Cranberry in theory was done except for the hem and belt.
It was really hard to decide which of the other two I wanted to do next, the Persimmon, or the newly named, Midnight Mourning. Since I wanted to wear Persimmon in the same fashion show as Cranberry, it won. The silk taffeta was harder to pleat than the cotton one but after lots of fiddling I finally got them to be smooth across the front. 
Although now that I've laid the piece of antique lace across the front that I'm using, I wonder why I was so worried. But at least it will look good, especially if I wear it without the lace sometimes.  
It was then that we discovered our computers had been infected with a very nasty malware called spigot, and all three were taken away to be cleaned out, including our wallets. 
This could have been a good thing because then I could sew more instead of spending so much time on my computer. I spent all day sewing piping for my bodice which went on the neckline, armseye, waist, and cuffs. I pulled out the skirts for both Persimmon and Midnight and sewed those up. The next morning I woke up with a screaming spasm in my back shoulder blade. I spent two days whimpering and whining, hardly being able to move. I had some hand sewing I could do on these so I spent time with my heating pad and watched marathons of Ghost Adventures. By the end of the second day I was able to stand and cut out one of those chemises I needed, but found out my 45" inch cotton had shrunk so much it was only 37" wide and I was only able to cut one chemise out of it. Arggh! 
Just because I can't physically sew doesn't mean the Squirrel in me isn't at work. So now I'm staring at my black dotted Swiss cotton for Midnight, and dreaming about what it will look like. Something like this! 
It won't have the big balloon sleeves because I'm doing the later 1837 style. But look at the trim used along the edges of the neckline, and down the center front. I have a long chain with pocket watch like she has and the belt buckle. I'd love to do that hair but I doubt I can find a wig that would do it justice, so I've ordered a straw bonnet form from Timely Tresses, and will cover it in black silk taffeta. I do have some cute little curls that I can wear under it though. 
So here on my third day of recovery, and having gotten our computers back, I'm in business again. I still have to limit my time at the sewing machine but do have my pleats pinned in the black bodice, and it's hook and eye tape is in. Which finally after doing it a third time, I got it! 
This photo was taken using my flash since black doesn't show up very well, and what can you say about black? It's black, but I think once I have the trim sewn on, possibly velvet ribbon, and a belt with buckle, it will shine. 


  1. These are turning out so pretty! I can't wait to see you in them.

  2. Owww, I hope your pain is gone now! That Cranberry gown is breathtaking! It is quite hard to find nice historical looking fabrics around here, but I have found a few that aren't too bad at all!

    1. Thank you, Laura. Today was a no pain day so I think it's gone. I have to behave myself tho.

  3. Love how you can layer the lace over the Persimmon gown.

    1. Thank you, Carolyn but I can't take credit for the idea. It was similar to my inspiration photo. But it does make for a nice variation of the look.


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!