It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Civil War Bloomers? Who, Me?

I got a little sidetracked from my "me" projects by a request from a friend.   For bloomers.  Yeah, historical bloomers.  Like this:

Some time after joining Pattern Review I discovered that there are people out there - LOTS of people, who are really into sewing historical costume items.  And wearing them.  It's fascinating, and I love the folks who really get into the historical accuracy of the hand sewing and all that.  Jolly good stuff.   For them.  Corsets and boning and stuff?   Fascinating.  Just not my cup of tea.

So what am I doing right now?  No no...NOT a corset...just a simple pair of bloomers.   For a friend who needs them for a folk dance show  (she was invited to perform in a troupe that will be traveling in Europe next month - you GO girl!)

All of my friends know that I really haven't been interested in sewing for others, but when a Good Friend (hereinafter known as GF), who doesn't sew, asked for a pair of simple bloomers....well, hey, it sounded fun to me, so I said I'd be delighted.   She said they were already all cut out.  (No tracing!  No cutting!)  She thought it should take about an hour.  Did I mention that she doesn't sew?
I think I need this clock.....
So she brings over the pattern and the fabric, already cut.  Two pieces.  Two one-seam legs.  I drape them on her body...I'm a little concerned about the sizing, but this was all given to her by someone who is familiar with the pattern, so I trust that all is well.   Except the legs seem just a tad tight, but I figure I can just make a small seam.   I'm also a bit concerned about the waist & the fact the crotch seems like it might be a bit high & tight.   Just sew a seam at the waist & I'll put in a drawstring, she says.   Did I mention that she doesn't sew?   Still, I figure 2 hours, tops.

Step 1 is to sew up the leg seams.   French seams it calls for.  I need every bit of width I can get in the legs, so that ain't gonna happen - I'll just take a small seam and serge it.  Of course, I had black thread in the serger, and I'm sewing on white lace.   I can be lazy about changing serger thread, but it's no biggy.   Really.  It just means I need to kind of rush through the project that I need the black thread for.  

OK, black serging is done.  (That project will be reviewed soon - and I like it!  It's yet another skirt, and I think it's time to take back everything I said before about not liking skirts.)  Here's a teaser....
There are lots of clues here.... };-)
Back to the bloomers.

I did my usual quick read through the instructions (VERY quick, this time), and jumped right in.  The pieces made no sense to me, but did I take the extra time to read the pattern carefully and figure them out? nooooooooo.......   I also jumped around a bit as I was working, because of not having the real body nearby to fit.

Step 2 (my step 2, not the pattern's) was to sew up 6" of the crotch seam, then fold the edges of the rest of the crotch seam over twice and stitch the folded edge.   Huh?   The whole crotch seam has 6" that's sewn together & the rest of it (another 2+ feet) is WIDE OPEN?   

I think I'd best not write out loud what I'm thinking here....

Is this not the very image of sweet, demure, and very well-covered?
Deceptive, folks.   Very deceptive.
At this point I'm thinking it's time to decipher the pattern & try to get a sense of just what these things are really supposed to look like, because I'm still not really getting the picture.

This is when I discover that there's supposed to be a waistband.   Aha!  That explains my concern about the rise being too short.   So I dig out the pattern pieces, wade through all of the corset bits, and finally find the waistband parts.  And dig through stash to find some appropriate white cotton, which, thankfully, I had in my muslin stash.   Cleared it with GF that it's OK to use an old sheet.  "I don't care what it looks like, don't worry about anything, it'll be fine, keep it simple.  I'm only going to be wearing this for 8 days" says she.   

Did I mention that she doesn't sew?  Have I also mentioned, somewhere along the line, that it's basically not in my gene makeup to leave a seam unfinished on the inside?

How about if I just skip over all of the parts about the seam ripping I did whilst I figured out which was the front, which was the back, where the tie was going to be, which end had the pleats, where the tie started and ended, how to finish the seams.....

Now, this is NOT the fault of the pattern.   Really, the instructions are excellent.  If I had actually seen a completed pair of bloomers before I started I would have finished in half the time.   But I also did not get the gene that allows one to visualize the written word as a 3D item.  I need to touch and feel it first.   

And I guess I just couldn't get over that non-existent crotch seam.

Eventually I got the waist band on, and got GF over for a quick fitting.  The goddesses were smiling on us, because it looked like the fit was just fine!   Except that she wants the tie to be in front - not that she wants me to change the pattern, she just wants to wear the blooming bloomers BACKWARDS.  Quick costume changes between numbers, you know.  YOU CAN'T HAVE ME SPEND THIS MUCH TIME SEWING SOMETHING AND THEN WEAR IT BACKWARDS!  I'm pretty sure I did not shout that, but I'm also pretty sure I said something close to it.   She'll get a lot of practice pulling them on and off, so I'll just have to wait and find out what she does.

GF is telling me tales of how she usually does drawstrings for her costumes (safety-pinned on if/when something breaks), and the rips that frequently happen (again, safety-pinned together...if it's even necessary to do a repair...), and it's beginning to sink in that it's really OK if the costume falls apart, and I really don't need to be spending time finishing all the seams.

But does that stop me from finishing them anyway?

Of course not.

Now I was expecting nothing but a "thank you" for this (I already owe her, as far as I'm concerned - she was one of the friends who spent some time with Mom to give me a break), but she brought me this exceptionally beautiful cut of silk dupioni:
It's a golden yellow, with a rich purple warp -
hard to capture the 3D color, but you get the idea.
And the completed bloomers:
Ummmm, yeah.
Close-up of the 6" crotch seam and the, um, gap.
So that was fun!   Really, it was.  I would even sew another pair.  If you paid me.  ;-D

Update:  Woohoo!  GF just picked them up, so I got a couple of shots of her wearing them:


In the meantime, another friend asked if I would be willing to sew her a bustle.  No pattern, just total creative freedom!  This project I relish.  Here are the goodies she sent me to play with:

She wants wild and funky, tattered bits, and she trusts me to do whatever I want.   Once I figure out the basic construction logistics (famous last words = "How hard could that be?") it should be nothing but fun!

What's your take on sewing for friends?   Fun?  Won't do it?  Will do it if you're paid?  Will only do it if you're not paid?

My brain is beginning to accept the possibility that sewing for dollars might be a fun thing to do....if I can find the right niche......we'll see........


Anonymous said...

And they really did wear bloomers with no sewn crotch seam. You did a nice job and are a true friend.

Theresa in Tucson

Summer Flies said...

Yes no taking them on and off for many jobs in that area - if you get my drift! But I wouldn't have thought that it would be in a modern pattern. I try no to sew for anyone but my son. But if it doesn't fit me I give it to someone who wants it gladly. I can't do unfinished seams either.

shams said...

Jillian, you are SO nice to your friend. And, no, I would not do it. If you say "yes" even once, the nn you've started sliding down that slippery slope.

But you are nicer than I am. :)

You were missed today at the exhibit! We gabbed for hours. :D

Jilly Be said...

And now I know! ;D Thank you - GF is a true friend; the circle continues :)

Jilly Be said...

The things you can learn about different time periods just by studying what they wore, eh?

Jilly Be said...

I would have SO loved to have been in two places at once today...was thinking about you all, so I was there in spirit.

I'm watching that slippery slope.....

shams said...

I see the pics on her that you've added. They look great! I assume they wear some sort of tunic over the bum? :)

ElleC said...

So many things to say.

I have that pattern! It was thrifted of course, but very strange to open your blog page and see this pattern. I have no idea whether I will ever do anything with it, but it was cheap and in factory folds.

I too, and unable to leave a seam unfinished, because the sewing goddesses will strike you dead or curse your sewing machine or something. With one exception, polar fleece, I can leave those seams alone.

That silk is glorious, what a good friend you have there.

Sewing for friends. I will. Occasionally. Very occasionally. With one exception, a friend lives with The Husband and I and our menagerie (currently 5 dogs). I will sew for her because she never really asks, and she understands that it has a tendency to make me behave like an insane person. I find sewing for others incredibly stressful, and brings out my already ridiculous perfectionism, so that I am almost paralysed with anxiety and indecision.
She also really is happy with whatever I produce for her.

Jilly Be said...

She'll be wearing 3 layers of petticoats & skirts over the bloomers. And I assume some "real" undies underneath ;D

Jilly Be said...

I sewed my darling "niece" her 21st birthday party dress (blogged here in detail last year), which was fitted, and she wasn't around for fittings! That was stressful, but I still loved doing it. Because she's special :)

These 2 items, the bloomers and the bustle, have so little fitting involved that fine-tuning the fit is non existent. And really, it's the danged FITTING that causes all the problems. I already know that sewing a jacket or fitted blouse or pair of pants for someone else just ain't gonna happen. Because I so hear you on the perfectionism thing.

Small-Medium-Large. That flies :)

RhondaBuss said...

When people talk about the "good ole days," I always reply, "I like these brand new days just fine." Who wants to HAVE to wear bloomers??? You did a great job.

marysews said...

I love that clock! I had no idea that bloomers were so functional!

glorm said...

Love that clock also. Jilly, you are a good friend; your GF is a good friend also.

Would I sew for others? On a rare occasion I might. First I would like to get caught up with sewing for myself. One gets way behind when one hasn't sewn much for at least ten years. The internet accounts for eight of those years and the rest? I think it's Barbie and Ken's fault. Darn them.

Andrea said...

How sweet of you to sew the bloomers, and how sweet of her to gift you such lucious fabric!

I do sew for friends on occasion, my "RGF's" (really good friends) primarily. I am not afraid to say no, and have said no many times, to both family and friends. Some relationships are such that you have a good balance - and those are the people who are a pleasure to sew for, know what I mean?

I'm glad you are loving the skirt thing, and can't wait to see what you've made.

kbenco said...

Your bloomer sewing story is very funny. I used to sew costumes for my daughters' dance performances, and could not stop myself from finishing seams and doing hems either.
I don't sew much for other people currently - only my family and the friends that are pretty much family. Sewing for myself is more fun. I never do mending for anyone other than my husband and 9 year old though!

Carolyn said...

How very generous and nice of you to sew for your friend! and I love the fabric she gave you in return. You have royally deserved it!
I no longer sew for others, only my immediate family. You see, I would like to keep on liking my friends :)

Louisa said...

Those are so cute! And functional. ;)

Like a lot of others, I only sew for Dearly Beloveds. Anyone else makes me so stressed out it's just not worth it. Yeah, you want it to be perfect. And of course it never is.

Anonymous said...

This isn't a question about this post, but on an older post about making the Style Arc Linda pants, you mention using the "zig zag lightning stitch". What is this? I'm newly back to garment sewing after a long spell of quiltmaking, and there is a lot I'm catching up on. Things have changed since I made clothes, 30 or so years ago! LOL (I think I need to try that pants pattern-it seems to fit everyone, doesn't it!)

Claire R. said...

You are not only a Very Good Friend you are officially canonized by the Saints of Sewing. I sew, and I knit, and I am learning to be a goldsmith, so I make jewelry. I sometimes give a knitted scarf to a friend or relative. I often let friends look at my practice jewelry and pick what they like. Rarely, if it's a small one and not gold, I will do a teeny earring repair. No rings though. And no more earrings. ONCE I made a pair of earrings for a friend using 18k gold wires, and I then learned about her obsessive/compulsive disorder - she detected a .005 mm or smaller difference in the earrings (I think it was actually the placement of her ears) and I remade those damn earrings 3 times. And then I told her that I'm not going to make her any more earrings. Ever.
I. Do. Not. Sew. For. Friends.
I. Do. Not. Sew. For. My. Husband (although he has been known to offer to sew for me).
One of my new goals for life is "Avoid learning my friends' or relations' obsessions about tiny jewelry or clothing measurements." And I have the phone number of a nearby tailor for those who are in need.

Luz Clara!

Karin said...

My daughter's dance teacher has asked for sewers to come forward for the Show in November. I am scared. Very scared.

Jilly Be said...

I'm not afraid to say "no" either. That's definitely a good thing!

Jilly Be said...

Thank you :) If I can't help enlighten, it's wonderful if I can at least lighten things up ;-)

Jilly Be said...

The "zz lightning stitch" is a stretch stitch, found on a lot of modern machines. It's a zig-zag, but it moves back and forth more than side to side, so that it looks rather like a stylized lightning bolt. An ordinary zigzag works just fine though (as does a straight stitch, set a little longer, and giving a little tug of tension to the fabric as you're feeding it under the needle. Does that all make sense?

And the Style Arc patterns are SO worth the investment!

Jilly Be said...

Omegosh - one experience like that would turn me off too!

Having a tailor's number is a very. very. good suggestion.

In my former sewing life, (memories of which are slowly returning) I sewed for friends a LOT. But then, that was a time when we shared a lot, and took care of each other with our differing talents. If you're reading "hippie lifestyle" into that, you wouldn't be far off [grin]

Things are a bit different now, but I still have fabulous friends, who have been extraordinarily generous with me, and for those people, I'm delighted to sew. But not fit & tailor! I consider that the equivalent of the .005 mm earring!

Jilly Be said...

Oh. Oh dear. That IS scary!!! Do you have 8 spare hours every day for the duration? If not.....oooooooh I dunno......

Valerie said...

Thank you for such a hilarious post. It is amazing how many historical undergarments have ingenious solutions for doing one's business. I sew for others Very Selectively. It is amazing how many people want a lot for Nothing and it wears you out before you know it, so these days I say No far more often than Yes, even to family.

Martha said...

What an amazing friend you are. I stress out too much when I sew for others, so I limit it to close family, and only the ones I trust not to suggest ridiculous design changes after the fact. Yep, been burned. But as others have said, you're very nice.

Carol said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Bloomers and a bustle?...word will get around...people wanting costumes...perfect when it's something you are having fun doing! Why not gopher-it as a business? :)

Cation Designs said...

Oh dear, that story is too funny! I just purchased that pattern for the corset, and I don't intend to ever sew the bloomers, but still, that was an excellent "review!"

You are so sweet to sew for your friend, and that bustle did turn out fantastically!