My Own Mr. Darcy – Part 2


Ben came to York with me last Saturday so he could try on his jacket. I think the photos speak for themselves…

Don’t worry, he’ll have boots on for the photo shoot.

He convinced me that he doesn’t need to bother growing out his sideburns to look more period because the collar would hide most of them anyway. I couldn’t argue with that.

Look at that posture! According to Ben, just having the outfit on makes you stand up straight.

And is it me, or is it easy to imagine that instead of a cell phone he’s holding, it’s some pocket almanac or calling card or other small hand-held Regency items?

Oh, the transformative power of costume!

…And We’re Back!


Sorry for the hiatus guys – it’s been a long two weeks!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, waistcoats. We worked on them for three days. Ta-dah!!


Still no buttons or buttonholes (blast!) but never mind, fastenings are for the home stretch hand-sewing-in-front-of-the-tvĀ  marathon. I.e., for later. And yes, those are REAL pockets! And just so you can see how it’s starting to come together:

red lining makes me happy

So once the waistcoats were (sort-of) finished, we officially switched gears to our 19th century bustle gown project, starting with the corset. Corsets are satisfyingly speedy to make. Ta-dah!!

corset fitting

Of course mine’s still not finished (what’s new?), but that’s only because we had to order a shorter spoon busk and wait for it to arrive before I could carry on. In the meantime, I made THIS:

bustle cage

And guess what? It’s FINISHED!!!!!! My first COMPLETED garment of the course!! Well, except for the buckle that needs stitching on the waistband. Two minute job, if that.

The bustle cage was also nice and quick to make, only about two days overall (including the time I stayed late). Filing down the sharp edges of the steel boning was the most time-consuming bit, and then wrestling the boning into the criss-crossing top section was the most awkward. Apart from that, easy-peasy!

I finished the cage by 2 pm last Friday, so then it was back to my corset (the spoon busk had arrived by then). Tell you what, topstitching around the curved edge of a spoon busk is nerve-wracking. In fact, as a rule, I have to remind myself to breathe when I’m topstitching anything. But the busks went in without any major incident, and by the end of the day I had the top of one side bias bound. I decided to be brave and go for the “stitch in the ditch” method rather than attempt to slip-stitch some of the sturdiest coutil I’ve ever come across, and since then I’ve gotten the bias binding on the top of the other side as well. I think it’s fair to say I have gotten nice and comfortable with stitch in the ditch! Here it is with lace I’m thinking of using for some added decoration, but I’m not entirely sure I like it (the lace, I mean). Thoughts?

corset in progress

All I’ve got to do now to finish it is shorten the bones, get them in, and get the bottom edges bound. I say “all” like it’s not going to take an entire afternoon shortening every single bone (the shortest ones Pauline has are 1/4″ too long. Bah). But still, it’s certainly coming along!

And THEN, on Monday of week 7, we started petticoats. It was a fraught week, mostly because of pleats. F*!%ing pleats.

We had the option to make ruffles either with gathers or with knife pleats. I thought well, I’ve already got a waterfall petticoat with gathered ruffles, and I absolutely hated doing it at the time. Pleats are nice, especially knife pleats, those are simple – yes, I’ll make mine with knife pleats!

I quickly came to regret this decision.

three hours = 105 inches

I had arrived at the college at 8.50 Tuesday morning, and didn’t leave until 8.50 that night. What’s more, I took some prepped strips away with me so I could pleat on the train. Pleating on the train, after a 12-hour day. Turns out it’s nauseating work. It was a bleak time.

I was back at it at 8.30 Wednesday morning, and twelve hours later it suddenly seemed worth the effort:


I’m proud of the finished result (again, FINISHED! except for snaps and a skirt hook and bar, and stitching the ruffles down to the side seams so they don’t flap around), but I do think the pleats look a bit crap now that they’ve been shoved rather ungracefully under the sewing machine just to get the damn things on and it’s going to be a right pain pressing them all back into shape. I will also say that I think the gathered ruffles look better and provide more volume, but at least this way I’ve tried something ne

And now we’re nearly caught up, blog-wise. Thursday this week we made our combinations (combined chemise and drawers in one garment, proper period undies!), which was more faffing around with polycotton and corners and gathering (almost like the shirt, but less heinous).

And then yesterday, finally, I SEWED THE SLEEVES INTO MY JACKET. My unfinished jacket and breeches had been looming in the back of my mind for the past two weeks, and it felt SO GOOD to get the damn sleeves on!! I had previously spent a few hours trying, and failing, to get the sleeves pinned in right. Ultimately Pauline spent 35 minutes first thing Friday morning pinning my sleeves in for me herself!! I know that kind of defeats the point, but oh well, I’ll give setting sleeves another go on the bustle gown.

No pictures from Friday yet, but I can happily say that the sleeves are stitched on, the collar is finished (needs a good press though – I am kicking myself for not having taken the two minutes to cut out a top layer for the collar that would have fit on properly rather than wrenching it into place so now it sits kind of funny on one side but here’s hoping it’s nothing a good press won’t fix!), and my breeches are all sewn up and wearable. Huzzah!

So that’s it, we’re halfway through. Next week is the week off, but I’m going in on Monday and Tuesday to catch up on a few more things. I have to 1) hand sew the sleeve lining of the jacket; 2) put facing around the cuffs of my breeches; 3) finish my corset and 4) about a dozen other small odds and ends but those first three are the main things.

I’ll try to be better about posting regularly in future. Thanks for reading!

Unfinished Business


Here is a list of the things that were meant to be finished by now, and are not:

1. shirt
2. breeches
3. jacket
4. waistcoat
5. ladies’ period combinations

In a word, everything.

In another word, nothing. Nothing is finished, and it has been five weeks.

But does this bother me? Not particularly. It’s not only me. No one has finished anything. Some of the ladies are much closer than I am – jackets completed except for buttons and buttonholes, breeches you can wear with waistbands on – but in general we are all behind together. And that makes me feel not-so-bad.

In fact, I think I’ve done pretty well on the jacket seeing as I gave up an entire day to work on it. There’s still a ways to go, but the collar is on and the sleeves are pinned into place, so it actually looks like something! Here, look:


Seriously, arriving at the stage of setting in sleeves felt like reaching the promised land. Never mind that I need to even out the pleats and sew them in properly; let’s forget about all that for now and lookit some pretty pictures!

back view

back view detail

And yes, those are functional pockets!

So that’s the jacket. We officially switched gears on Thursday and started work on our waistcoats (which I thought I had taken photos of but apparently not so hey ho, coming soon). As much as I was hankering to actually finish something, it was nice to set the jacket aside and focus entirely on something else. Especially something fairly straightforward and – dare I say it? – simple, like a waistcoat.

Ok, well, not simple exactly. Welt pockets require a level of finesse that amounts to three hours’ work – more if you’re pattern-matching. In the end, I got the pockets done and a few bits together (I’m nearly the furthest one along, for once! It’snotaraceit’snotaraceit’snotarace), but I didn’t get as far along as Pauline had hoped. Her goal for the end of Friday had been to have the waistcoats entirely finished up to buttons and buttonholes, which on Thursday afternoon seemed reasonable. Turns out, it wasn’t.

The revised plan is to FINISH waistcoats tomorrow (god help us), and make a start on the next project on Tuesday: corsets and bustle cages. As for the unfinished Regency menswear, we’ll just have to catch up as and when we can: late nights and early mornings, for days (possibly weeks) on end.

And I’m ok with that. Like I keep telling myself, things will take as long as they’re going to take, and so what if I have to stay late and come early? It’s only one summer, might as well get as much out of it as I can, and it’ll all be worth it in the end.

My own Mr. Darcy


Yesterday Ben came in for his fitting. As it wasn’t until late afternoon I had plenty of time to get everything ready, including nearly finishing that damned shirt!!

Anyway, without further ado…

the shirt

the shirt and breeches

shirt, breeches, and waistcoat

just look at that collar

the full ensemble

Good news: everything fits! There are some tweaks here and there, but nothing major. So, first thing Monday morning we’ll be taking apart those toiles and finalizing the pattern.

And then it’ll be time to make it all up in the actual fabric! Eeeeeeeee.

I’ll finish this post with my favorite photo of the day:

Dapper? Me?

Exercises in problem-solving


After yesterday’s exhausting marathon, I realized I needed an attitude adjustment. Haphazardly rushing through the steps and not listening properly to instructions for the sake of Just Getting It Done is tiring, frustrating, and entirely counterproductive. There is no point taking a course on how to make period costumes if I am just going to barrel on through without doing anything properly or paying close enough attention to ever remember how to do it again, whatever “it” may be. So, no more of this maniacal insistence on finishing things within an unreasonable amount of time. It takes as long as it takes.

With that in mind, the morning got off to a cracking start. I had my calico waistcoat made up by mid-morning, and my breeches sewn up by mid-afternoon. Here they are!

waistcoat – thread-marked and all!

breeches – obvs not for me

So once those were squared away (we’ll learn how to put in the split-fall on Friday), I moved on to drafting my jacket pattern. Now this was certainly an experience – flat pattern drafting! Actually, wait, isn’t all the drafting I do flat? Anyway what I mean is, rather than start with a mini-pattern on a grid and scaling up (which is what I’m used to), today’s pattern came in the form of several diagrams and a list of instructions, like so:

knowing what this means makes me feel clever

See the part at the top where it says “Continue the lines across from A, C and D”? No, neither did I. Which is why I ended up having to sellotape the piece of paper with my completed center back panel back onto the larger sheet from whence it came, having sliced it off content that part one was complete. I didn’t realize that the instructions for the rest of the jacket pieces carried on based on the first few points on my newly severed pattern piece.

sellotaped pattern. whomp.

The other minor setback was when I realized that I had, about a dozen steps back, accidentally drawn a dot somewhere up 4 1/2 inches instead of 5 1/2. I only noticed after I drew the curves for the armhole and thought gee, that looks awfully small. Fortunately going back to fix it only took up about an extra 10 minutes.

corrected armhole

Despite a bit of faff, I quite enjoyed this new exercise. It felt a bit like math class, or building lego. I think so far pattern-drafting has been my favorite part of the course, if only because progress feels so quick. 10 minutes of drafting and you have something that looks like something. 10 minutes of cutting and you’re still messing about with swathes of polycotton trying to get selvage edges to match.

And what of the shirt, you wonder?! WELL, as it turns out, only one cuff needs to be on for the fitting – just to check that the sleeve length is right. So, just as well I only got one on, because it just might so happen that Ben’s arms miraculously change length in the next two days! Which means that all I need to do for the fitting on Friday afternoon is put the collar on! I say “all” as if it’s not a fiddly tw0-hour job. Here’s hoping.

Tomorrow is finishing the jacket pattern, cutting it out in calico, and if there’s time left, sewing it up. No hurry though – Ben’s fitting isn’t until Friday at 5.30, which leaves two days to do, at an optimistic estimation, a day-and-a-half’s work. We shall see how it goes!