Friday, February 21, 2014

Blue Spencer, Remaking a Spencer I Never was Happy With

Some years ago I made this spencer. This particular photo was after I had altered once. This is one of those projects that I was never completely satisfied with. The spencer always had fitting issues around the neck and the sleeves never quite fit right. Not to mention as soon as I hit 27, certain areas in the chestal region decided to expand, joys! So, I started taking this piece apart about 2 years ago with plans to fix it and change it into something else.
Villians Ball 036[4]
Ahh, the early days… please ignore Aaron’s boots, and the ill fitting frock coat… and.. well… pretty much everything he is wearing. Eeek! We all have skeletons in our reenacting closets, right! (Ok, I’m hard on myself, but I’m a perfectionist who is always trying to learn more and hone the craft.)
Anywhoo… back to the point of all of this.
About six months ago I found this lovely miniature. I decided my old, worn out, seen better days, ill fitting spencer might be able to have new life.
20140216_121446 20140216_121438
Here’s the starting point, well the semi starting point, after removing the sleeves. As you may be able to see in the picture, the arms eye sits too far back and digs into my arm. I HATE it when clothing digs into me, especially when I try to move my arms forward. So, that had to be fixed. The other issues was the wrinkling of the bodice when I would close the front. The darts did not sit in the right spot and somehow needed to be moved. So, I sat and thought for a day or so, and looked at it. Yup, I need my sit, think, and stare time.
20140217_122139 During my sit and think time, I made my way to one of our local antique stores and found this lovely trim. It was perfect for this project and it’s vintage silver!
After fussing with things for a few hours, I decided to add a side piece under each arm. I somehow forgot to get a picture, but it’s really not that exciting. Anyway, that did the trick! It put everything in the correct spot. I also added boning to the front of the bodice on both sides and metal eyes on the inner edge to lace the bodice closed, like the painting shows.
20140219_100756 20140219_100744 20140219_100730
After a day, or so, of mounting the trim, we now have a finished bodice.
20140219_100125 20140219_095953 20140219_095835
Again, not the best of pictures, but at least you get the idea of the fit. I’m  much, much happier with this incarnation of the spencer. The fitting issues are fixed and I love the result!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Another Round Gown… Really, Can One Have Too Many?

This gown was one of those projects that I needed after the Riding Habit of doom. It was easy, it had no issues, and it only took me 12 hours to make. Yes, it is possible to hand sew a gown and sew it  well, without cutting corners in that amount of time. Anyway, here are the pictures. Enjoy!

20131110_185353The fabric.
The inspiration. I decided to make it more simple than the original gown. I may go back and add the piping on the bodice later on. 

Everyone needs a helper pet when hemming gowns.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Riding Habit Jacket/ Spencer That Almost Killed Me!

So, the ladies and I decided we needed to do some sort of riding habit day while we are in Williamsburg. I had started this habit a few years ago, about the time I started getting into horses. Anyway, after a move and buying a business, the habit fell to the sidelines waiting for the perfect event to make its debut.

I had already drafted the pattern and cut the original pieces out when we lived in Portland. I was never quite happy with the fit and decided it was time to readdress those issues this time around.


Angel, aka Mrs. Cartwright, had made these lovely buttons to go with the riding habit as well. The colors are perfect!

20140125_154718 20140125_154631 20140125_154603

After a few hours of fussing with the fit, I felt I had tackled the major issues…. This, of course, would prove not to be the case as the project progressed. This was one of those sewing projects that caused frustration from day one! The sewing gods were not in my favor and it was annoying.


I decided to line the lapels and the cuffs in blue silk to match the blue in the buttons. The hat I plan to wear with it has the blue and green as well.

20140128_095457 Now take a good look at the shoulders… notice anything strange? Well, I didn’t until AFTER I put the sleeves on. If you said the shoulders look short, you’d be right! I have no clue how I could have missed that very important detail, but I did. Yay me! Anyway, more on that later.

20140129_145000 The time to construct the collar had come. Pad stitching has to be one of my least favorite parts of tailoring. It takes FOREVER and it feels like you haven’t accomplished a whole lot by the end. Yet, it is one of the most important shaping tools in the bag of tricks. I also decided to line the inside of the collar in the blue silk to match the lapels. 20140202_125007 20140202_124949 At this point I had finished the collar and started attaching the sleeves. Then I did a fitting…. Yeah, the sleeves pulled the collar out of alignment and did not fit right.


So, I added a shoulder strap on top of the shoulder. I did a lot of research before I decided to add this crucial piece to extend the shoulder. Since the 18th century was chock full of pieced gowns, spencers, jackets, ect, I decided it would be ok to have this piece. Yes, I am that particular!

20140204_163452 20140204_163444 20140204_163430

This time it worked! The shoulder straps allowed the sleeves to sit in a correct position at the shoulder seam. Mind you this was after a few dates with the seam ripper and ever mounting frustrations! It’s projects like this that keep me humble, that’s for sure.


Finally it was time to start on the cuffs. This part went surprisingly fast and was fairly easy. I decided to keep the stitches red like I did on the lapels and the collar.

20140205_155228 20140205_155218 20140205_155258

Finally! Success!

Now it was time to attempt the skirt. I, wrongfully, assumed this part would be a breeze, no issues, ect. Well, as I mentioned before this was one of those projects. I discovered something about my body…. Long peplums and same colored skirts do not work on my body…. AT ALL! So after two days of fighting with the skirt trying to figure out why my already hefty derriere looked like a moose had taken up residence under the skirt, I decided to call it quits.


An Amazonian dress, 1797, Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection


Costume Parisien, an 8 (1799-1800)

I researched once again and rediscovered these fashion plates/ cartoons that I had forgotten about. Perfect! I can wear it as a spencer over one of my numerous voile gowns!

20140213_083122  20140213_083044

And the results…. I know not the greatest picture, but you get the idea. 

So, the riding habit that almost defeated me has been bested and checked off the list of “Items to Make for Williamsburg.”

To Williamsburg We Go!


This is going to be old news to many of you, I’m sure, but I am finally heading to Williamsburg! I was invited to attend the Millinery Through Time convention and my dear husband is sending me for my 30th birthday (Scary I can’t believe I’m going to be 30!). It will be quite the reunion for myself, Lauren of American Duchess, Maggie of Serendipitous Stitchery, Samantha of Couture Courtesan, and the most hospitable friend who is opening up her home for us, Abby of Stayin’ Alive! I am beyond grateful for this opportunity and extremely excited. Although, I’m not sure if Williamsburg is ready for our descent.

As a result, I have been sewing like crazy! I’m still not quite finished with everything I need to make for the trip, but I have made some progress. Over the next few posts I will show you what I’ve been up to. So stay tuned!

The Past Few Months in Animal Pictures

So, those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen many of these pictures before. The past few months have been filled with our animals and our business. So, here is a little slice of our life at the Fort. Enjoy!

20131009_205439  20140210_133106

In January we adopted this little guy and named him Dexter. He is the sweetest dog and is in love with Aaron!  He is also growing like a weed! He just passed his 1st birthday in November and he hasn’t stopped growing!.

20130713_200400 Dr. Who



Then in July we brought home these adorable snuggle bunnies! I had no idea how much fun rabbits are and these kids have us completely wrapped around their fingers!



Of course, they are now 8 months old, and  a bit larger. I jokingly refer to them as the “kitchen staff” because they live in our kitchen.

The animal count was now at 13….. But who can stop there, right!

20140105_111608 Alice

20140214_080224 A good friend of ours is moving to India and asked if we would take his female bunny for him. We introduced her to the boys, and after a few weeks the three of them are inseparable.


This winter has been rather cold for us and we had a few days with quite a bit of snow. Bob and Aspen had a very good time playing in the white powder.


Bob being Bob!


My sweet Aspen is still showing us her personality day by day. She was so badly abused in her previous homes that she has flash backs and I have to remind her that she’s not going to be beaten by me. She has made amazing progress in the year we have had her and I love my girl!


The girls have not been fans of this cold winter. They still believe that I control the weather and protest when it freezes, event though they have an outdoor heating pad in their coop on the harsher days.

20140216_124554 20140121_180320

Gico is still Gico! He’s a crotchety parrot who loves me and Aaron and pretty much hates the rest of the world. He loves to make sure the dogs are in check, especially Dexter.


Max and Leila are getting older and older. Max is really starting to slow down and his arthritis worsens with each passing year. But he still has some spunk and likes to run around and play.


Last, but certainly not least, is our Chloe cat! It’s hard to believe we have had her for nearly two years. She’s a very happy indoor/ outdoor girl and loves living in the country.20131114_161726

Our animals are our joy and they keep us sooo very and happily busy! God Bless!

Love Lauren

P.S. Stay tuned for a rather large post about an exciting upcoming trip!