dickens1At the end of November, I’m doing the first weekend of my annual outings to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in the Bay Area. I’m in a bad way for a new get up and have to get going on making it. Today, I set forth the beginnings of the task.

copperfieldAnd as I work on this kit, I’ll be listening to Richard Armitage’s narration of David Copperfield. This afternoon, while David journeyed from Blunderstone to Peggoty’s in Yarmouth and back, through the trials of Mr. Murdstone and his sister, Jane, and then off to Salem House boarding school. .  . I got things set up for a new mini-wardrobe, a la the 1850s.

I started by looking at the yardage I was working with and determining how many different kinds of garments I could squeeze out of it. This is a rather period-esque way of doing things. Yardage was expensive (it still is!) and reused as often as possible. So if you could make several tops/bodices to use with a single skirt and interchange things, you could make a fairly flexible wardrobe.

img_8874I also have a thing about working as much as possible from my own “stash” or from fabrics I’ve sourced from thrift stores or from my friend’s stashes. We tend to crowdsource our stuff as much as possible to keep costs down. This is the pile of fabric I’m principally working from on this kit. Most is from a recent thrift store visit and the rest purchased at cost from a friend’s stash.

img_8887This blue/white stripe with red flowers piece and the red velvet are the largest pieces and so they’re what I’m designing from. The velvet is actually two large curtain panels that have been repurposed. And the blue/white stripe with red flowers is about 10 yards of 60″ cotton – the pattern is woven, not printed.

So here’s what I’ve planned to make from it: These sketches show the fabric and design plans for an evening, a regular day and and visiting day look.  The sketches help me visualize exactly what I’m going to tackle and help me plan each garment. They also prevent me from getting a wild hair in my brain and doing something radical half-way through the process. That never ends well for me.

Once I have the sketches, I pull the patterns I’ll be using. I’m using a Simplicity pattern for the jacket (with some minor alterations), a Period Impressions pattern for the evening bodice, and I’ll create my own pattern for the waistcoat based on this vest I found at a thrift store.

img_8877Since the visiting day look is the first priority, I did the pattern prep for it today as well.  Pattern prep is often overlooked by folks, thinking they can read the instructions as they go along during garment construction. But I find that reading through the instructions completely first, making notes about what I can skip and what I might alter slightly for my own preferences helps me prepare the garment better in the long run. I make as many notes on the pattern instructions as I can stand.

Then I cut out the pattern pieces I’m actually going to use and toss the rest. (I don’t think I’ve ever made a Big 5 pattern exactly the way that the pattern instructs or using every single piece they provide.)

img_8882Next I dove back into my stash to see what I have on hand that can be used up for by this project. I chose some buttons for the waistcoat and various trims and fringes to use in the design. I also checked to make sure I had enough muslin for the mock-up and garnet silk and cotton to use as lining. Not to mention boning for the bodices.  Turns out, the only thing I’m in need of is hooks and eyes for the jacket closures, which a friend has plenty of so I’ll buy some off of her next weekend. Woo hoo!

Well, by this point, David hasn’t yet bitten Mr. Murdstone, so I have a little more time to get myself together.  I clear off my project table and arrange all of the fabrics and notions I’m going to need for the project on it so it is ready for me tomorrow night when I start on the mock up.  That blue and white ruffly fabric there is going to be a new petticoat as well. (The flask is also fortified with Glenlivet. It’ll come in handy later.)


I was so efficient in today’s preparations that I had the wherewithall to fish a chemise out of my “fixit basket” and re-thread the satin ribbon in the neckline. It’s needed that done for probably nine months!


So I’ve made good progress and preparation to delve into Dickensian London this season!  The rest of the week will be dedicated to doing the mock-ups of the bodices so they can be ready for the fitting party my friends and I will have next Sunday!

Three cheers!