Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Starch. The magical liquid that makes collars stand up, petticoats fluff, and under sleeves crinkle. In this case, it was my petticoats that took the plunge. I decided after reading again and again how magically stiff starch makes things (petticoats that stand up on their own?!) to try my hand at starching. None of the store spray-on starch for me, no thank you! I have heard (never tried it myself) that the store starch isn't stiff enough for historical uses. Mia, from An Aspiring Homemaker posted her recipe, so I tried that. I'll let you travel over to her blog to read the finer details.

After stirring in the corn starch, waiting for the water to boil, stirring the settling corn starch mixture, waiting for the water to boil, stirring, waiting, etc, I was finally able to add it together. I stirred it for longer than the recipe said, maybe three minutes, because it said to stir until it started to thicken, which it didn't seem to be doing. Eventually I just said "good enough" and waited for it to cool. I set it outside on the porch for an unknown length of time until it cooled to the point where I could almost stick my hands into it. I dipped my two petticoats and wrung them out.

I have read that the best way to dry your damp petticoats is to hang them over an overturned trash can, as it will give them the best shape. It being winter, and myself not having a trash can, I crossed two hangers over each other in a sort of 'X' shape and nestled that inside my petticoats while drying to get them to fluff out a bit. Corn starch will stick to itself while wet, so it's best to try and keep the fabric as much apart as you can.

I dried my petticoats overnight, and they were still a bit damp in the creases and in the ruffle on my one petticoat, so I hung them by the fireplace for an hour or so until they were fully dry. It took me a few days, but I eventually ironed them (first spraying them lightly with water.) A few days to get around to ironing them, that is, not a few days to iron them... ;) The ironing created a smooth, almost glassy finish to them, which feels very nice.


Was it all worth it? Do my petticoats actually stand up, or is that a thing of myth? Take a look for yourself.

Here is a picture of the result (pre-ironing):

They do stand up! Or rather, did. After I wore them for a day they've relaxed a bit. They no longer stand up by themselves, but they still do give that nice crinkling/swishing sound when I walk.

As you probably remember from my last post, I have a sewing wish-list that I'm trying to get done by the end of the year. I haven't progressed much on it so far, I only have my next pair of drawers cut out. I have, however added something else to the list.

Ta-da! From what I've been able to figure out, it's from the last 1950's to early 1960's. I'm going to make the middle version but in black. Black dresses are easily dressed up or down and they go with almost anything, accessory-wise. I am hoping to get my crinoline re-made before I start on this dress. Foundations first! :)

As for my blue medieval dress, I am debating if I should hem it with a facing or not. I also might put a baleyeuse on it, though just a small one, as they're not really period-correct for the medieval times. You can click to read more about baleyeuses here. I do want something to keep my train from getting dirty. The alternative would be to create a very long hem facing which would be harder to keep clean, as you would have to unstitch it for cleaning as opposed to unbuttoning it and throwing it in the washer like with a baleyeuse.

Hope you're staying warm!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sewing Goals for 2014

Happy New Year!

I thought I would put down my sewing goals for 2014, then at the end of the year, we'll see how many I finished.

  • First on my list: finish my blue medieval dress! All that needs to be done is to hem it, since I was able to sew the trim on last week when the power was out. Any tips for hemming a dress with a train?

  • Start and finish my blue wool 1900's swimsuit.

  • Start and finish my 1860's work dress...

  • ...and make an apron for it!

  • Make more petticoats! One can never have too many petticoats. I have three right now - two cotton I wear over my hoops and one flannel that I've only worn in wintertime. My goal is to make at least two more before reenacting season starts in May.

  • Make another chemise and another pair of split drawers. Because it's just silly to have more dresses than you have undergarments. :)

  • Make a corded petticoat for myself and starch it for ultimate stiffness! Also, I'm working on starching my current petticoats, but it requires a trip to the store to buy more corn starch.

  • I also have several yards of the fabric on the right. I was thinking of making a turn-of-the-century skirt out of it like the blue one in the picture on the left, but I may end up making a simple pleated skirt. I haven't had any luck finding a pattern so far and I don't think I'm talented enough to drape a pattern yet.

  • I also want to make a ruffled petticoat. Right now I wear two plain petticoats over my hoops, but I think it would look better if I added a ruffled one too. Now just to get enough white fabric... 

  • Speaking of big skirts,  number nine on my list is to remake a crinoline that I received for free. It's a size 4, which is most definitely not my size. I think I can mess around with it to make it work, however. Add a yoke perhaps, or lower the waistband. Which brings me to number ten:

  • A poodle skirt! What can I say? I've loved poodle skirts for a long time. Though if I make myself a poodle skirt, I think I'm going to have to have a pair of saddleback shoes to wear with it...

I think that's everything. I'm sure that I'll add more things to the list as the year goes on. So many time periods, so little time... My list leaves me at a total of thirteen projects. One sewing project a month sounds more than do-able!