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From Regency to Steampunk!

February 12, 2013

Many years ago I worked at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in Lincoln, where I was happy to discover a world of dressing-up to demonstrate traditional crafts.  How I wished, then, that Victorian dress patterns were available, and if they were…where could I find them!

Not quite front page news, but front cover of 100th Lincolnshire Show supplement

Not quite front page news, but front cover of 100th Lincolnshire Show supplement

Happily, today I can go online and find historical dress patterns for almost anything!

Part of the job involved sitting in the office for hours drawing and measuring new acquisitions, which I enjoyed, and one of the perks was seeing and  handling costume items…and doing some drawings for myself!  A while ago, I was wondering why I had these drawings, and when would I ever get to use them…more of that in a minute.

As mentioned in a previous blog, I discovered the world of Regency dressing-up, and the Jane Austen Festival, so I had a go at making my first Regency dress without a pattern.  Then came the discovery of patterns galore, other Regency enthusiasts, re-enacting (friends, not us), and through friends we met at the Jane Austen Festival…Steampunk! 

Actually, I had seen pictures of a Steampunk convivial in America, several years previously, and wished that we had something like that over here.  Imagine my surprise when we found out that we do…right here on our very doorstep!  The Asylum is held in Lincoln every September, and takes it’s name from The Lawn complex, which was originally built as an asylum!  😀 

We only made this discovery in September 2011, so missed that one, but last year we attended our first Asylum…and it was an awesome experience!!

Helen, looking divine

Helen, looking divine

Cecile and Simon looking suitably splendid!

Cecile and Simon looking suitably splendid!

So, now I am back to looking at Victorian fashions, and all those wonderful patterns that are available, as well as studying my old drawings, like these I did of open drawers…

Three pairs of Victorian drawers

Three pairs of Victorian drawers

I have now decided to open a new blog for my Victorian and Steampunk adventures, as Roundgowns and Reticules is mainly Empire/Regency.  Wish me luck, I may be some time…

The new blog is now up and running, and called Sandi by Gaslight.


Butterick Making History Victorian Jacket (B52320

January 27, 2013


In November last year (2012), I started work on a jacket toile using Butterick’s Making History Victorian Jacket pattern.  Because of my size and shape, I hit a mental block and came to a complete standstill…until now. 

First calico toile with fur collar

First calico toile with fur collar

With the discovery of The Historical Sew Fortnightly Facebook page, which offers up a new needlework challenge every fortnight, I thought that I would have another go at this jacket for the UFO (Un-Finished Object) challenge.  Even if I don’t finish it, I will be a lot further on than I was. 



As I have already mentioned, I am not a standard size or shape, so the toile did not look or feel at all right when I tried it on.  At first I decided to partially un-stitch the centre back seam to see if I needed to add a bit, but this made no difference to the gaping at the back of the arm holes, so I have re-sewn it and un-done the side back sections and enlarged them. 

Then came a slight challenge with the sleeves… 

My silly mistake!

My silly mistake!

Inexperience with patterns had me making what I thought was a half-inch seam, which left me with the stepped piece on the sleeve and bodice.  How the heck does that fit together smoothly?  I just couldn’t see it…until it was pointed out to me that the stepped bit was the seam allowance!  DOH!  Once I had re-sewn the seams it all looked right.    

New pieces were then cut out and a second toile was sewn together, giving a much better fit, but still with a slight gape, so I will probably add small shoulder pads, as I have sloping rounded shoulders, but we shall see how it sits once the sleeves are in place. 

So far, so good!

So far, so good!

Bugger!  The second sleeve has been sewn in…inside out!  



Actually, the sleeve is the right way round, but I’ve sewn it in the wrong way round.  😦

Never mind, it made no difference to how it felt when I tried it on.  Now I have another little challenge…when I re-jigged the back, side-back and front pieces, it altered the size and shape of the arm-scye.  It looks fine on Mathilda, because she does not have arms, but I seem to have made it too wide, so the sleeve-head now pulls tight across my upper arm.  

So, although I haven’t even started on the actual jacket, and won’t fulfill this challenge, I  am further along than I would have been without it!  😀



2012 in Review

December 30, 2012
tags: ,

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 14 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sense and Sensibility Elegant Lady’s Closet Pattern…The Drawstring Dress (Part 1)

August 1, 2012

As previously mentioned, in another blog, I made a start on a dark blue muslin drawstring dress from The Elegant Lady’s Closet by Sense and Sensibility, but, for some reason, went straight into making it rather than making a calico toile, so was not surprised when it didn’t fit right. 

Sense & Sensibitity Elegant Lady’s Closet pattern

With the Jane Austen Festival (2011) approaching, I put this aside to work on Robert’s trousers and my new spencer, bonnet, and reticule…which actually got finished in plenty of time, with no panic involved!! 

Two weeks after the festival, I sewed the sleeves on, and tried it on again, over chemise and stays, but this time I pinned the cross-over pieces properly, without pulling it too tight…it fitted perfectly!! 

This dress has been made as per the instructions, so the cross-over pieces are only a single layer of hemmed fabric, which I think are a little bit too big…but I will reserve judgement until it’s finished.

As I now have a dress form, which I have padded to match my size as far as is possible, I can carry on and make the skirt without having to keep trying it on and wondering if it’s straight…which is one of the reasons why it has been put aside and (almost) forgotten about!

In Part 2 I will post pictures of progress so far, but as this years Jane Austen Festival is fast approaching, I have other items to make that are more important…like a couple of commissions for a friend.

A Corded or Tucked Petticoat

June 6, 2012

First, I made a Regency-style dress.  This was for the 2009 Jane Austen Festival’s Grand Regency Promenade…without the use of a pattern, as I had no idea then that so many were available.  (Check out my Links page for addresses, as these do get added to from time to time). 

Anyway, after wearing that dress for three promenades, without a petticoat, and having it cling to my legs or stick out at strange angles, I have decided that I very definitely need to make a petticoat! 

My first promenade dress – 2009

Even during the period when flimsy muslin was the fashion, petticoats were an important garment for any self-respecting lady of fashion.  Not only did they add another layer to preserve one’s modesty, but they also gave the gown the correct shape.  There is an excellent article on petticoats in Your Wardrobe Unlock’d for those who are subscribers.

Back to my first attempt…I used the Sense and Sensibility Regency Gown pattern as a basis after reading their tutorial

S&S Regency Gown Pattern

S&S Regency Gown Pattern

Then I discovered this brilliant blog that explains the making of the bodiced petticoat in more detail

I then had a better idea of what I wanted to achieve, but I did not follow these instructions to the T…I did not line or bone the bodice, but have gathered the front onto the waistband, and have used a front-fastening with drawstings.

It took me several weeks to get the bodice done, because I had to think about each step and how to get the pattern right so that it fits my awkward shape!  As I have narrow, sloping shoulders, I have always had big problems when it comes to straps of any kind, so the back must be high enough to prevent them falling down.

The taking of photos as I make something did not happen this time, as I was trying hard to concentrate on getting costumes made for the first Horncastle Regency Festival.  Sorry.  As it was, I still did not get any new dresses made for myself, as I was making Robert a new shirt, neckcloth and waistcoat.

As for the hem, I decided to go with tucks, rather than cording, which I believe came a bit later as dress hems began to flare again.

I will add a photo when I have one, to show the finished garment.

Regency Stays…First Attempt

June 3, 2012

Having worn my first Regency-style promenade dress to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath a couple of times, I decided that proper underpinnings were necessary, to give me a real Regency shape, and to prevent my dress clinging to my legs when strolling about the town.

First Regency-style outfit…without under-garments!

I looked around for a suitable pattern for some Regency stays, when a friend said I could borrow her Sense and Sensibility pattern –  I then copied this onto dot and cross paper. 

I measured myself and chose the relevant size, cut the pieces from calico, and tacked them together…to find it just did not fit!  The reason is that I am not a standard size or shape, so a lot of re-jigging and fiddling had to take place before I was totally happy with it.   

The most obvious problem was the straps.  As I have very narrow shoulders, I had to re-adjust the back and side pieces in order to bring the straps in enough so they actually sat on my shoulders.    

The next niggly bit was the ‘cups’, as the pieces for my ‘size’ made no difference to the shape of the stays…flat…and were totally in the wrong place for me, anyway.  I had to move them inwards so they were not under my armpits!! 

The straps were not fixed, as in the pattern, but left free at the front with eyelets added so that I can adjust them…I might even add some more so that I can hoist it up a bit more!  😉 

Stays, almost finished

The length of the stays was not enough to be comfortable, so I added a couple of inches to the bottom.  The boning was added, then I spent ages top-stitching them like original examples were…

Regency Stays (KCI)

Another wee problem has now come to light…I don’t have enough bosom to create a ‘shelf’.  How can I rectify this?  ‘Chicken fillets’?  Maybe, but they cost money, so I made some crescent-shaped pads that I stitched into the cups.  Has this worked?  Yes and no.  I had a ‘shelf’ at last!  🙂  It didn’t last…after wearing the stays for a little while, my bosom began to disappear downwards.  😦

Wearing my new stays, before weight gain

I still haven’t worn them, as I have since put on weight, and they have become uncomfortable.  Oh well…back to the drawing board!

Fashion Museum, Bath

January 18, 2012

OK, time to get blogging and do a little catching-up before we proceed with 2012, so…back to September…and Bath!


After the Promenade and lunch, we joined the crowds at the Guildhall, where I bought myself a spencer pattern.  We met up with Scott and Jo again, and went for a wander up to some shops they wanted to visit, and from there up to the Fashion Museum. 

When  Robert saw how much admittance was he declined as we didn’t have enough money, and we left them hunting through their purse and wallet for their National Trust cards which would allow them free admittance.

Outside the Assembly Rooms

Tuesday arrived, and we headed back to Bath for the picnic on the grass in front of Royal Crescent…


The weather wasn’t the warmest, or the brightest, but at least it didn’t rain…until later.  After a while we were joined by Aurora and her friend Justin…Aurora was also in her Regency costume. 

When we’d taken everything back to the cars, we headed back up the hill to the Fashion Museum.  I was so looking forward to seeing all those beautiful 18th century and Regency-era gowns again, but I was to be disappointed. 

Since our last visit, things had changed to accomodate the latest exhibition of bridal gowns, which had taken over the area where all the eighteenth century gowns had previously been displayed. 

A couple of lovely gowns

These gowns were all beautiful, but they weren’t displayed in chronological order…just displayed all together.

More beautiful gowns

The beautiful seventeenth century silver tissue gown was now sans pretty mannequin with lace collar and accessories…

17th c gown

But we did get to play…


Then on to the costume displays that I had come to see, starting with some early accessories…


Disappointment was just around the corner…All the previously well displayed gowns and accessories had been crammed into glass-fronted alcoves and called ‘Behind the Scenes’.  Some were so dimly lit that it was impossible to see any of the beautiful embroidery or detailing on them!  😦

Poorly displayed gowns

Hem details

A very pretty gown




We even sat down and did some drawing…

Doodle time

Back upstairs, we decided to have a quick wander around the Assembly Rooms… 


We left the Assembly Rooms, to find that it was raining…and you will also find that the rest of the day is covered in another post…:-)