Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Big Idea

The Big Idea's been incubating for years.

How to turn this:

Into this:

How do you take an extant garment, with its generally small size, personalized fit, and limited capacity for handling, and turn it into something you can wear? And more problematically, how do you turn it into something OTHER PEOPLE can wear? Specifically other people you may never see or be able to fit?

We started with patterns. Cassidy took dozens of them, from small and large museums, everyday garments and Paris couture. She took photos and noted construction details.

I tried hand-scaling those patterns in Illustrator. I could get close, but not close enough that we weren't likely to face a mob with torches and pitchforks after their 5th muslin mockup went horribly wrong. The fit on historic clothing is so precise, and modern bodies so different, that no one-size-fits-all was going to fly.

Generally, pattern companies deal with this by using standard sizing and providing fitting advice. But we've all had that project, the one that would never fit right no matter what, not even with all the best advice in the world.

We needed a system where people could start with their own bodies and work out. We found it, in Wild Ginger's Cameo software. We can draft the patterns at standard sizes, using standard drafting techniques, and then adjust them to multiple measurements that other companies don't even begin to ask for: things like bust height, shoulder drop, neck circumference, ribcage width. This is as close as you can get to couture fit on a costumer's budget. And best of all, because we're doing it digitally, we can do it faster, on a larger scale, and eventually cheaper than anyone else selling custom patterns.

Sound exciting?

We think so too.

You can back our Kickstarter at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/741450845/dragonrose-historical-sewing-patterns to pre-order the pattern for the Emile Pingat gown shown above, get a custom sloper to make your own patterns, or get in on the ground floor for any future release. Feeling REALLY generous? You can even get your own replica of the gown as shown.

C'mon, look at these faces. Can you really say no to this???

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dreaming big: a new pattern company for everyone who hates fitting


We started small. We asked for $2500 to buy software to launch our pattern line. People got really excited and so did we.

Once we crossed the $4000 mark, stuff got real, and it was time to figure out what else we could get to streamline the pattern drafting and printing process, and to ensure that all our backers got the absolute best product we could give them.

So now we want one of these:

At a list price of $12,000 ($10,500 + freight for us because the sales rep was so excited about our Kickstarter,) this baby can print an entire pattern on 72" paper in under 3 minutes. A $30 ink cartridge will do over 300 patterns. And the ink is less sensitive to heat and moisture than inkjet, making it the ideal printer for sewing patterns that often get pressed or steamed.

There are only a few days left in the Kickstarter, but if you haven't checked it out yet, there are still some great limited rewards left, as well as the unlimited pattern pre-orders. We are so excited, grateful and humbled by the support and advice we've been offered through this process, and we can't wait to share our patterns with you!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hallowedding 2015

Things have been crazy. I say that every entry, but, since my last one, things have been REALLY crazy.

First, this happened, on Halloween (Photos by the incredible Serena Star Photography.)

Why yes, that IS a cameo by Cassidy on the left.

Headpiece by Taylor at Dames a la Mode

Shoes are the Renoir style by American Duchess

I so love my purple monster.

I made 5 other dresses for members of the wedding party, in addition to my own. My options were blog or sew. I sewed.

The other 4 bridesmaids made their own dresses, because somehow I ended up with an amazingly talented group of friends.

I think the best part was how many people dressed up. I think the folks that grumbled about how they were going to "feel weird" in costume really felt left out by the end of the night, because they were a clear minority. It was kind of a lovely feeling.

So yes. That's where I've been.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Busy day today. After working til almost 11:30 last night, I woke up early to come back in. We hosted an amazing embroidery workshop by Larissa of Olde Towne Bead Supply and now I'm TIRED.

"But the bridesmaid dress!" you say.


The inspiration: 

The corset

And the dress

Skirt is Truly Victorian TV208, and the bodice is TV400. The overskirt is an original 1869 Godey's pattern for a pannier overskirt. 

Now if you'll excuse me, my couch and a period drama marathon are calling my name (Oh who am I kidding? I'll be sewing until at least dinnertime. Down time between projects is MY time!) 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Bridesmaid's Bustle

My oldest and dearest friend, K, doesn't sew. Well, that's not true. She can hem a pair of pants and reattach a button. But that's pretty much it. So when I asked her to be a bridesmaid in my Victorian wedding, it was with the knowledge that I would be making her dress, along with all the underpinnings. 

K loves red and black. I did her corset in a red and black rose brocade (finished in a hurry for her birthday, so no pictures!). When it came time to tackle the bustle, I decided black was boring, so I went for a vibrant red. I used Truly Victorian TV108, the petticoat bustle so I wouldn't need to make a separate petticoat.



Back. So. Many. Ruffles. 

K is a tiny thing so I shortened the pattern so much I lost an entire tier of ruffles. I also extended the bottom ruffle around the entire hem since there won't be a second petticoat. 

And a sneak peek of the untrimmed but otherwise completed dress (she's doing her final fitting tomorrow): 

More photos tomorrow when I have her in it!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Petticoat from Nothing

While home over the holidays, antiquing with my mom, I picked up the most amazing(ly awful) wedding gown, circa 1990. What it lacked in taste, it made up for in an abundance of lovely pleated organza and lace trim, and a nice long, full train. 

I mean, come on, who wouldn't want to put this on their body?

Forgive the already detached pictures, I had it taken apart before I remembered to blog. 

To give this sad creature a new life, I decided to turn it into a Victorian petticoat.

Step One: remove zipper and bodice. Laugh some more at the care tag. 

Step Two: Measure out a piece of ribbon (I used petersham, you can use grosgrain or twill tape) your waist measurement + 2 1/2". Press under 1/2" on one short edge and 1" on the other short edge. This will support your closure. 

Step Three: Mark center front in your waistband and center front of the skirt. If you need to shorten the skirt, do so now, from the waist edge. To lengthen the skirt, measure a band of matching cotton the extra length you need plus 1" and stitch it to the top of your skirt with a 1/2" seam before attaching the waistband. Mine turned out to be fine, length-wise, so I didn't do either of these things. 

Step Four: pin both closure edges and center front. On the waistband edge where you pressed under 1/2", line the fold on the waistband up with the folded edge of the fabric. On the edge you pressed under 1", line the folded edge of the fabric up with the END of the ribbon. You will have 1" hanging over the edge. This is for your overlap and closure. 

Step Five: Gather or pleat the fabric to fit the waistband. You want to gather a bit more densely in the back if you want it to accommodate a bustle. I left 6 inches ungathered either side of center front, a little less than half my waist measurement. 

Step Six : Attach your waistband. I used a 1/2" seam. Adjust to your preference. 

Step Seven: Attach closures. 

And done! 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My New Hat

Since my cap seems to have vanished to parts unknown (and I know what I'LL be doing tomorrow), it was time to finally get around to trimming one of the hats I bought at Colonial Williamsburg last year. My problem with these hats was twofold. One, they're ENORMOUS. Like Sunbonnet Sue enormous. And two, the crown is too high - they look like modern gardening hats. So I knew they were going to need some surgery. Rather than making do, I decided to try some major surgery. Fortunately, the straw in these is just chain stitched together and taking them apart wasn't too bad. I started with the brim and just kept taking coils off until I liked it, then re-knotted the thread to keep it from pulling out any further. Then, emboldened by my success, I cut off the crown completely and repeated the process until it was about half as high as it had been, then spliced it back in and stitched it down by hand. And, miraculously, it WORKED!

These are two side-by-side comparisons of the unaltered hat and the altered one. I like mine much better, don't you?

The pleating on the crown is from this Threads tutorial and it turned out nicely. The ribbon is 1 inch wide striped acetate from M&J Trimmings, pleated into 5/8" box pleats by hand and then the "box" part of each pleat has a tiny stitch in the center of it holding both selvages in. The brim is bound in the same ribbon, and I used it for the ties as well. All told, I used about 5 yards.

For the Historical Sew-Fortnightly:

The Challenge: #6 Stripes

Fabric: Straw hat, striped ribbon

Pattern: None

Year: 18th century

Notions: Thread, scissors, needle.

How historically accurate is it? Not bad, although the ribbon is synthetic

Hours to complete: About 5

First worn: Colonial Williamsburg 2013

Total cost: about $40