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For the last few years my intention for gift giving has been to make as much as possible myself or buy from artsy friends or people at craft shows and online marketplaces like Etsy. With the exception of books (of course), electronics, music and other similar things. The idea is to give more thoughtfully and more specifically.

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The downsides to making and buying handmade are that I have to come up with ideas for items people will really like – I have to know them pretty well in some cases. I also have to plan way ahead. If I come up with an idea too late I might not have time to pull it off or it may be too dissimilar to the other things I’m making, increasing the time all around.

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This year I spent to much time on a doomed gift (a huge crochet project that I probably won’t finish until June now), made two dopp kits and five aprons, and bought one pair of electric toothbrushes. In typical fashion I undertook a new pattern, graded another up a size, created several custom graphics that were overly complex for the application, and used a technique I only had vague experience with. I completed my last task, setting the graphics on two of the aprons, Christmas morning. I also forgot to buy wrapping paper (which I like the look of, but always feel so wasteful for using…) and had to wrap gifts in crumpled brown paper and tissue paper I had on hand.

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Things turned out pretty well, though I made the mistake of buying twill for the aprons. It was a mistake only because the vinyl stencils didn’t stick perfectly to the slightly textured weave and images were not 100% crisp. I didn’t do the graphics on the Hawaiian fabric aprons (which I also didn’t take pics of apparently), but they weren’t lacking. I did turn the white flowers slightly pink pre washing the fabric, which is still bothering me, obviously. (Must remember to try those Tide color catcher sheets). I didn’t finish the inside of my husband’s dopp kit or get to wax it, but it looked good and came home with me anyway.

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All in all the gifts were received well. Would I want to repeat the Food Seasons in New Orleans graphics in exactly the same way? Maaaaybe. I need to work on my process in getting complicated stencils from the sticky cutting mat to the project surface. I’ve used stencil transfer paper, but I find it to sticky. Next time I may try some clear vinyl over my stencil instead.

Now that Christmas projects are over Happy new year!

I went to my company Christmas party this evening. While I was waiting for my husband to get home I ended up with some time on my hands and started playing with my hair.

I present to you the 7 Braid Pseudo French Twist.

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Here’s what I did:

1. Sectioned off the front third of my hair and pinned it up in a clip temporarily.
2. Pulled the bottom third back in a pony tail, also temporarily.
3. Braided two lose braids from the remaining hair on the sides, one on each side.
4. Remove the bottom pony tail and braided two lose braids, one over the other.
5. Removed the top clip and sectioned out that hair to the left, right and center and braided each section.

When I was done braiding I basically had 7 braids, two over each ear and three stacked from top to bottom.

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Notice that I have different colors bands on each braid. Some that are the color of my hair would have been much better.

Next I grabbed the whole thing and started to twist it like I would a bun, but I let the ends stick down out of the right side. That left a loop on top. It’s not quite a French twist, but close. I stuck my double hairstick in, then used the pins to stuff in the ends and add that little swirl on the right (totally unintentionally) and to hide a couple of the bands that were showing. If I had hair colored bands I would have only used 4 pins and the hair stick.

The only thing I would have done differently was to think through the front before braiding. I could have pinned it so my hair was parted or had a little volume, which would have looked a little nicer. All in all it was a fun updo that I would do again.

After a healthy smattering of posts I seem to have run out of things to talk about… Or I’ve been working diligently on gift projects I can’t yet discuss. ‘Tis the season.

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Today I’d like to share an interesting website I just stumbled on via Pinterest. It’s called Unsung Patterns: An Archaeology of Home Sewing. The image above is from this post on, of all things, corset bags. It appears to date from the 1910s or so and features an embroidery design bag. The bag itself is made from a strip of fabric 9″ x 1 1/2 yards long, folded in half and stitched on the long sides.

I must say, though I store corsets and have seen modern commercial versions of bags (usually one side is clear plastic), it never occurred to me to make one. My corsets tend to live folded into large handkerchiefs. Silly me.

Other entries on the blog feature some other unique items, including early 19-teens aprons, 1930s pirate costumes (not as bad as you might expect), a 1920s Martha Washington costume, some German patterns and a variety of early century work wear, all with a little history and background included.

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I’m rather interested in aprons right now, so this post on a 1926 “Bungalow Apron” from the New Jersey based Aladdin Apron Company (great name!), with its musings on the possibilities of women going beyond the home sewing realm into cottage industry is particularly appealing.

It’s an interesting site to peruse. Enjoy!

Just when I’m researching 1930s corsets and extrapolating a 30s garment from a teens one, Mrs. Depew unveils one of the intermediate eras, the 1920s Foundation Corset.

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It’s hard to see exactly how many seams it has, but I imagine it has four more in the back. The top line is part way between the over bust Victorian models and the shape of the 1911 corset. The bottom length and garters look to be long enough to both shape and smooth. Of course it’s slimming, or rather flattening… I’d say my 30s corset falls nicely in line.

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Mrs. Depew does have their own 30s pattern as well.

Should you find yourself looking for 1930s sewing patterns, I highly suggest checking out the excellent New Vintage Lady. She specializes in patterns for the Stout (plus sized) lady for primarily 1930s and 1940s. You can find her patterns for download on Etsy. Here is her blog, which includes info about her patterns, vintage advertisements and catalog pages, historic photos and her adventures in sewing. A lady after my own heart. I’m still making my way through her blog, but she has lots of great info, including vintage dos and don’ts for the plus sized figure and a primer on how to read vintage patterns.

il_570xN.836183478_56ihDid I mention that she illustrates all her own patterns and has an indy comic, Vintageville? I love her illustrations!

You can also follow her on Pinterest and all over the internets. Enjoy!

model in an early 1930s Spencer corset

The 1920s are known for their idealized flapper girl, with her boyish figure. The waist had all but disappeared or appeared dropped from it’s proper anatomical location, making the hips seem slimmer, and busts were minimized. By the 1930s the waist was reemerging, lines were more graceful, curvier and the overall clothing more elegant and lady-like. The waist was back, but the figure was still very smooth and idealized. So what is a girl to do with her curves? This isn’t the Victorian era. Corsets weren’t employed by the general populace to completely rearrange the figure, but it did need it’s “unlovely” bulges smoothed out.
Lordosis Backline 1930s adYou’d be surprised what was considered unlovely bulge. According to one ad, the curve at the small of ones back was unsightly. It was referred to as “Lordosis Backline.” Wikipedia says that Lordosis is the normal inward lordotic curvature of the lumbar and cervical regions of the spine, but an excessive curve is commonly known as a sway back. I don’t know if the phrase “Lordosis Backline” was commonplace or a marketing ploy used to exploit a real condition, but more women than not, wore their foundations 14 – 16 hours a day.
Spencer corsets 1939
Another ad has a little girl asking her mother if she will “stick out” like her when she’s older, with dad looking on, snickering. How, pray tell, do you get rid of that curve, that “figure fault”? By smoothing out the backside! Look at images of Hollywood starlets in their 1930s evening gowns and you will notice that the bum was not at all prominent. In fact it’s lack was a little boyish. Restricting undergarments went all the way down over the bum or to the thighs.
Take a look at these before and after images of a woman who had pretty minor “figure problems”:
Spencer_1941_2

This is the beginning of the switch from corsets to girdles and the era saw a surge in pre-made garments and professional made-to-measure items. Inevitably there were some holdovers to the tried and true corset and others may have desired more “smoothing” (more here meaning corseting, compression), hence the variety.

The biggest factor in going from corset to girdle must have been the wider range of fabrics available. Corsets of the previous centuries could only constrict. In fact there is a fabric made specifically for corsets. It’s woven in such a way that it has almost zero stretch. It’s called coutil and is traditionally a very tightly woven herringbone (there is a more modern satin as well). Real, good quality corsets, even today, are made with coutil. Period. There can be a fashion fabric outer layer and a lining, but if the main material isn’t coutil (and spring or spiral steel bones, but that’s a different conversation), it won’t last and the shape it gives you won’t stay true. With the advent of man made fabrics girdles could be made that smoothed and gently compressed, but allowed the wearer more range of movement. Some garments were constructed mostly of coutil with some stretch (possibly elastic or the period equivalent of power-mesh) added in gussets across the thigh and sometimes as a top band. I think of these as transition garments and this is what I will be making for this 1930s project.
If you do a search for “1930s corset” you aren’t going to get many hits. Search “1930s girdle” and you’ll get some. Search for a specific company’s garments and you’ll get a lot more info. Try “1930s Spencer” and you start to get somewhere. Better yet, visit Corsetiere.net and you’ll get a plethora of information on various companies’ garments through their history (through today in a couple special cases!).
Not finding an period corset patterns, but finding many ads for corset makers of the times, tells me that corset making as a home art was largely dead or dying by the 1930s. There are some patterns for period girdles, but I’m not looking for stretch in this case, nor was every woman at that time. There is nothing that says I can’t make my own 1930s corset, so I will.
As for the shape of the 1930s foundation garment, whether it’s a corset or girdle, it hadn’t changed much from the early century. It was long at the thigh and came to some height between directly under the bust and the waist. The single bra+corset/girdle garments are not something I want to try as a first shot and some are actually a long line bra over a corset/girdle.
What I’ve found are several patterns or variations on a couple patterns from about 1911-12 that I plan to test as is, then modify. One has 5 panels per side and will be my basic model. Another has a couple shaped gussets included. While I like the latter’s shape, the pattern doesn’t lend itself to enlargement as easily as the other. My plan is to make the 1911 and figure out the gusset placement, modified for power mesh or the like, after.
See related posts:

This is part of my Ghosts of Projects Past series, where I finally document projects I just didn’t have a chance to post about while they were happening.

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Some friends got married this past July. The dress for their adorable flower girl needed altering. It fit pretty well, but their color was forest green and her sash was bright pink. That just wouldn’t do.

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Off came a funky flower and sad bow from the back. Off came the sash.

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It was a rush job, and she’d never fit into it again, so I didn’t bother separating the skirt from the bodice, I just cut and serged the fraying edges.

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On went the new sash and I finished it if with a fabric flower with a mother of pearl button center.

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