April 16, 2017

Wearable Art: Strange Water Stays (Part 2)

When we last left off in Part I, I had about 16 hours into the wearable art project with binding and hardware still left to install.  For the class presentation, I brought along both the recycled material stays and my mid-century corset to compare and familiarize my classmates, hopefully changing their perceptions of the "torture devices."  Based on the positive responses from critiques, I think it's safe to say that the combination of water pollution concerns and early 19th century undergarments made quite a splash!  

Strange Water Stays, completed!

Design Concept:  From recyclable materials to wearable art, the Strange Water Stays are a visual, environmental statement.  Much as stays served as the foundation for the early 19th century silhouette, water supports our very existence and its vast bodies sculpt the landscapes of the Earth.  The dark blue denim, lace and vibrant green binding of exterior of the stays represent the beauty that is, much like our lakes and waterfront views offer.  However, the interior speaks to an unnoticed, sinister truth of death and decay lurking beneath the water's surface.  Intention and unintentional litter, like the paper, plastic and shiny metal products representing unnatural pollutants interspersed among the lily pads of the corset, silently chokes plant and marine life to death.  If we do not strive to make greater efforts to protect our irreplaceable aquatic ecosystems, polluted, lifeless, strange waters, will be the only reminder of the natural beauty that once was left.  

Completed Stays:  This project, transforming trash and recyclable materials into art, challenged me not only as a designer and artist, but technically as I had to adjust to issues that arose with the use of non-traditional materials.  (I only stitched all the way through one finger and broke one sewing machine needle in the process!)  After binding the top and bottom edges of the stays, I installed the grommets for the straps and used a pair of old shoe laces for lacing.  In the spirit of conserving resources, I decided to only place bones (aka plastic zip ties) at the center backs and save the rest of the grommets for future projects...

Outside - Shell of denim re-purposed from a skirt, lace curtain overlays and green cotton binding.  

All laid out, exterior.

Bust gusset and lace overlay detail, exterior.

Center back, exterior.

Inside - Blue cotton interlining, plastic shower curtain liner re-purposed for lining, plastic zip ties for boning, metal grommets and shoe strings for lacing.  The "pollution" included aluminum foil and paper coffee filters, and the "lily pads" were leaves left over from a plastic flower bunch. 

All laid out, interior.

Center front, interior.

Comparison -
Side view, exterior.

Side view, interior.

Strap and grommet detail, interior

Bust gusset and grommet detail, exterior.

Bust gusset detail, interior.

Strap detail, interior.

Strap detail, exterior.

While I do not foresee myself actually wearing these stays, remade in the appropriate historical materials and natural fibers, they might provide decent support for early 1800s and 1830s endeavors.  All in all, the construction time totaled about 20 hours.  

April 12, 2017

Wearable Art: Strange Waters Stays (Part I)

This semester, I decided to try something new and enrolled in a studio art class that explores the traditional and contemporary uses of the sketchbook.  The class emphasizes both the keeping of a sketchbook itself, as an essential tool in the development, practice and documentation of the creative process, and the exploration of a variety of materials and techniques.  Through a weekly series of 5-6 completed pieces of self-directed work and assigned projects, the demands are both challenging and rewarding from ideation to creation and critique.  

(Photograph via: Pinterest)

The last challenge presented to the class was transforming trash and recyclable materials into art.  We were given two weeks, and few restrictions beyond using re-purposed materials and that nothing new could be purchased.  That same class, we were instructed to brainstorm usable materials and project ideas. 

Immediately, I knew that I wanted to create a piece of wearable art.  And not just any garment, but one that made a statement.  Combining both water pollution concerns and early 19th century undergarments, the "strange waters stays" project was born! 

The initial brainstorming.

Phase two included the actual designing of the stays.  We were instructed to prepare several detailed drawings of our objects from various views and collect swatches of the intended materials to pitch to the class.

For my nontraditional, recycled corset materials, I chose to re-purpose denim from a donated skirt and lace from donated curtains for the outer layer.  I also chose to use bright green bias tape, an accidental purchase wasting away in the stash, for binding.  

Front view.  Notice that the seams and boning channels are marked.

For the inside, I selected an ocean blue cotton from the stash for the interlining, and my previous shower curtain liner, which needed to be replaced anyways, for the lining.  The "pollution" included tin foil and coffee filters, and the "lily pads" were leaves left over from a plastic flower bunch.

Interior view showing the intended construction.

More views of the stays.  Each sketch was worked in pencil, ink and watercolor.  I intended to use metal grommets and shoe strings for lacing, plastic zip ties for boning, and either a paint stick or cardboard to serve as the front busk.  

I thought that the lace overlays would add some visual interest to the outside, but also would serve as a metaphor for our lakes and waterways - scenic beauty at first glace with the sinister truth of death and decay lurking beneath the water's surface.  

Side view showing lace overlays, boning placement and stitching lines.

Back view, also showing seam and boning placement.

After our designs were presented and approved in the following class, we were given one week to assemble our projects.  Enter phase three: the construction process!  Because this was such a new experience, I did my best to document each step.  

First, I cut out each layer - lace overlays, denim outer, cotton interlining and shower curtain lining.  (Yes, I wiped down the shower curtain liner before use...)

Lots of layers!

Then, I assembled the outer denim shell, flat-lining the lace overlays to the bust gussets and side back pieces.  This was a new technique for me.

Constructing the inter lining was next.  This is where I had to get creative and adjust to the challenges of working with the non-traditional materials as they arose.  

I played around with the placement of the "pollution" until satisfied.  The coffee filters were crumpled and pleated to resemble lily pads, while wadded pieces of aluminum foil were interspersed among the "lily pads" or plastic leaves.  This represents how human litter, intentional or unintentional, silently chokes plant and marine life, forever altering those ecosystems.  Once everything is dead, such strange waters are the only thing left.  

Artistically arranging the polluted waters with paper
coffee filters, pleated to resemble lily pads, plastic leaves and shiny foil,
three types of litter that end up in our waters.   

Originally, I planned on hand tacking everything, but decided to save time and zig-zag all of the edges.  Or so I thought...this process seemed to take the longest of the steps as neither machine, nor I was used to sewing with the non-traditional materials.  Only one broken needle!  

Zig-zagged in place.

Afterwards, I flat-lined the plastic shower curtain lining to each piece, sealing the "pollution" in place and adding a murkiness to the "waters."

Assembling the lining was tricky because of the bulk in each seam.  I did my best to press the seams flat using the lowest setting on the iron and a cotton cloth to prevent any melting...

Aligning the outer and lining layers, wrong sides to the inside, I stitched along the upper edges and stitched-in-the-ditch to join several seams.  I found it very difficult to stitch through all of the rather stiff layers, so decided to skip the boning except at the back edges.  Now at the 16 hour mark, with the binding just pinned, I had completed all that I could before class...Stay tuned for the final results in part II!

March 30, 2017

HSM March Challenge: Forest Green Sacque Coat

A couple of weeks ago now, winter storm Stella left us snowed in with a little over two feet of snow!  So, I spent the long, five day(!) weekend sewing a new, 1860s sacque coat.  Made from a forest green wool with a fully quilted, silk interior, and trimmed with black silk bias strips - here's to staying warm in style! 

Inspired part by the blizzard, and part from this past project (here: A Little Sacque for a Little Gent) when I discovered the green wool remnant buried in the stash, I knew a new, better fitting coat was in order.  Plus, it made the perfect project and entry for the March challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly.  

The finished sacque with a vintage fur collar.

Construction Details

Moving right along into the construction details, the sacque's outer shell was cut from a beautiful, forest green wool remnant that was just enough to make a coat.  I did have to narrow the sides and sleeves a bit, as well as cut the sleeves in two pieces.  For warmth, I used a cotton flannel as the interlining, and black silk habitai as the lining and trim.  I also played around with adding velvet or silk twill buttons, but decided against them in the final design.  

Materials:  Forest green wool fashion fabric,
black silk habitai lining & cotton flannel interlining. 

After cutting out each piece - 2 fronts, 2 backs and 4 sleeve pieces - I flat lined the silk with the cotton flannel, using large, hand basting stitches.  Then, I machine quilted large diamonds on each piece.  This process, despite being entirely by machine, probably took the longest of the steps.  

Quilted lining.

Next, I assembled the outer shell and now quilted linings separately to keep all of the seams to the interior.  Joining the layers along the center fronts and neckline with a backstitch, I then prickstitched the seams to keep the lining flat.  Few things make me happier than all of the little hand stitched indents and neat 'n tidy interiors! 

To finish the hem and sleeve ends, I pressed both a narrow edge of the wool and the silk to the inside and prickstitched them in place.  This process also took some time, but was very relaxing.  

I used my favorite trick for setting in the sleeve linings, pressing under the seam allowance and whipstitching them in place:

Armscye interior view.

Armsyce outer view, notice the extra sleeve seam that lines up
with the dropped shoulder seam, and the tiny pleat to ease in the sleeve.

To trim the sacque coat, I pieced together bias strips from the silk habitai scraps and, using an uneven backstitch, applied these to the sleeve ends, at the back neckline and down the center fronts.  

Sleeve detail.

Lots of trim!

I had also planned to continue the trim along the entire hem, much like this extant example, but ran out of silk and steam...

Antique wool & silk velvet jacket, originally sold on ebay.
(The pictures were only available through pinterest: source)

(Image via: Pinterest)

Lastly, I added five metal hooks and thread eyes to close:

All in all, I am so pleased with this project!  All of the hand stitching makes me so happy, and I am thrilled that my understanding of garment construction has come this far...I can't wait to tackle the next project.  Oh and to wear the new sacque coat out and about for the first time! 

Completed Project Shots



Entry Details

The Challenge:  March: the Great Outdoors - Get out into the weather and dirt with an item for outdoor pursuits.

Material:  Forest green wool, cotton flannel for interlining, black silk habitai as lining and trim

Pattern:  My own, based off a previous attempt with modifications.  

Year:  Mid-19th century, 1860s

Notions:  Six metal hooks, various spools of black thread (general all purpose, quilting, button)

How historically accurate is it?  Very as a majority of the project is hand stitched with recognizable techniques, minus the machine quilting, which is not visible when worn.  Plus, the pattern was originally scaled from a period plate.  So, let's say 90%? 

Here are some similar sacque styles from historical photographs:

(Image via:  The Barrington House)

(Image via:  Pinterest)

Queen Margherita of Savoy.
(Image via:  Pinterest)

Hours to complete:  Five snow days of continuous work!

First worn:  Not yet...

Total cost:  Pulled from the stash, so I would estimate around $30.