Bogart and Bacall image restoration (1946):

As someone who loves history and participates in historical reenactment it’s a little disappointing to see many historical images. They feel drained of color, lessened, like they aren’t quite real. (Do people with color blindness feel the same way?)

I’ve seen a fair number of well colorized photos in recent years. That colorization does a lot to make the images feel more present, realistic and relatable. It brings them to life even more than black and white moving images.

Now that I’ve seen the colorized images of Mario Unger on Instagram (via BoingBoing) I’m not sure how I thought the others were so good. His images are simply stunning and full of life. I love seeing Billy Holiday mid performance, as if I was right there. There’s Ford, a group of Romani, turn off the century street scenes and Civil War soldiers, Freud, Che and a very young Frida Kahlo. And the image of this young woman, which I find particularly compelling:

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L. E. Jerome, by C. M. Bell, ca 1900

A post shared by Mario Unger (@ungermario) on


Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

We probably don’t think too much about types of darts in our clothing. Either they are present or not, short or long, narrow or wide.

When looking at historical sewing you sometimes see darts in groups, such as at the shoulder or waist, darts in odd to a modern eye places, such as near the hip or back of the neck, darts in multiple places, like the armscye and shoulder, or darts that are really more like vertical tucks, which let the fabric ease out at the top and or bottom (this can be especially nice at the ribcage, ending at the bottom of the bust, or top of the hip).

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Alterations for a prominent abdomen, Art of Dressmaking, Butterick, 1927

What you see in those cases are either straight line darts or those that jog in the middle, reducing the garment by a little wedge shape of fabric.

Clothing Construction, Clara Brown Arny, 1934

But they’re straight. Usually even when they transect the back waist.

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

There are other cases where you see a curved seam in a standard dart location, but that is usually either used to gather in fullness above or below or as a design choice.

And then there are curved darts. I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered them. I guarantee that I’ve used them before, either as lazy sewing or to adjust fit, but I’ve only just realized that they can be a design intention, meant to solve a problem. Don’t laugh at me. I’m working with a pant pattern that has a long, slightly inward curving waist dart. The paint is high waisted and if the dart didn’t curve in, it wouldn’t fit the small of the back. But of course such darts can also be used for specific figures: inward curving for a flatter bum, outward curving for a rounder bum.

Straight dart at bust, 1970s pattern

Slightly inward curving dart, 2017 high waisted pant pattern

1930s Beach Pajamas inspiration

Sewing and wearing costumes is fun, but it turns out I really enjoy researching various historical periods – the clothing, fabrics, notions, reasons hemlines were a certain length or the development of construction methods and what was considered the most up to date.

Currently I’m re-reading my 1927 Butterick sewing manual and pursuing a couple of more detailed early 30s manuals, while working on a set of Beach Pajamas. They’re based on the pants from this 1931 McCall 6431 pattern:

and the top from this 1933 McCall 7344 pattern:

I’ve used a modern pant pattern to match the hip size of my client and altered it based on some wide leg 1970s pants. Actually, I altered it much further than that (Caution: Winging It). The modern pant leg opening was about 35″, the 70s pant about 42″, and as you can see, the desired effect is much wider. I suspect at least 60″, if not more. To keep from piecing the fabric, should we go cotton, I couldn’t go too crazy. I’ve mapped it out to about 60-64″ opening on 3.11 yards on 54″ linen. We’ll see.

My current plan for the top is to drape it on my client, based on the general size of a jacket I made her previously. What could go wrong there?

Next step: the pant mock up, likely in 4 hideous quilting cottons from the stash.

I’m really excited about a Tumblr site I just discovered. It’s a great resource for Victorian, Edwardian, 1900s, 1910s and1920s original patterns. It’s called Real Historical Patterns.


I’ve only scrolled through about a year and a half of the archives so far, but there are a plethora of patterns, copied from various magazines of their day. Not only are there many, many women’s patterns to browse, but I saw a decent smattering of children’s and men’s patterns, with more men’s being promised soon.

The individual who runs the site has decided to find as many of these old patterns possible and present them for free, as many of them were originally published, instead of offering modern interpretations for sale. To this person I say “Huzzah! You make a historical seamstress so happy. And thank you.”

Enjoy everyone! Oh yes, they take submissions, so share the knowledge and send in a scan of that natty old coat pattern you found moldering away in grandma’s attic.

P.S. I’m making that tail coat jacket right now, rather, something very similar and slightly earlier. Photos soon.

I just found a pic of our illustrious Lord Mayor on Ravin’ Mayven‘s Pinterest board for ren costumes. She’s got links to some nice costumes, though not all are Ren or historical. There are a few custom order listings for Ren/Tudor/Snow White costumes, among others. She also links to some other Ren / SCA costume boards that seem to be worth taking a peek at.

Thanks to Ravin’ Mayven (and Rachel for originally pulling the pic of our Lord Mayor onto the realm of Pinterest).

Alter Years Pattern Multiple sizes Sm - XXlg

Alter Years Pattern
Multiple sizes Sm – XXlg


This summer, our guild recruited two fine young men to join us in our Renaissance Shenanigans.  As a result they both need a full costume. These costumes will consist of a shirt, jerkin, and trousers.

For the Jerkin I have a copy of the “Easy Peasants / Servants Jerkin”, by Alter Years Patterns. This is a basic pattern, and as the title implies, it is easy.

The pieces fit together well. There is no need to trim edges off, because the seam edges were off, or any other funny business. I find these flaws in many more commercial patterns. Once the pieces are all cut out and sewn together, it looks beautifully tailored and finished. P1020325

There is one thing to keep in mind. Make a mock up. For the two that I have recently finished, I skipped this step. As a result, they do not close all the way in the front. If I had taken the time to make a mock up, for the Medium size, I would have know that the front needed to be adjusted.


As you can see to the right the jerkin looks very nice, but it does not close in the front. I am debating on whether to make eyelets down the front. I still may, if I have the time before our next faire in July. (more…)