Maker Post: Adventures in Steampunk Sewing

So I’d love to share with you a sewing project I did for the one scene I am quite heavily involved in, which is STEAMPUNK!

As i looked up photos for this blog piece, I was horribly ashamed to notice that this outfit -which is the last one I sewed, was made 3.5 YEARS AGO. I genuinely can’t believe it’s been that long since I got behind a sewing machine. Good news is that we are fixing our spare room into a sewing room, so hopefully this will be rectified in the nearish future.

Anyway, I got into steampunk about 10 years ago courtesy of my boyfriends insistence on going to the first dedicated UK steampunk event ‘Asylum’ in Lincoln.ย  One of the first things my boyfriend did was enlist us on a corset making course in Rutland for my birthday. At that point I had not used a sewing machine on anything more complicated than upcycling old clothes and that was a long time ago. The course which was over 2 days was great but was also horrendously intimidating for a beginner and i did cry at one point. The good thing is my boyfriend came along , so I ended up with 2 corsets that fitted reasonably well.

steampunk3
Steampub! Llandrindod Wells Steampunk Weekend with my chums Katya, Janine and Denny

The pattern for the blouse and the over skirt are both by American company Truly Victorian. I can highly recommend their patterns, many are simple and easy to follow. Their patterns are full scale and hand drafted to fit the modern body, using historical principles and techniques.

For this outfit, I decided to use TV301 1870s Tie Apron Overskirt, which is drafted based on an actual garment as seen in an 1872 pattern catalog. For the top I chose TV460 1885 Cuirass bodice with 3/4-length arm patterns. I already had a made an underskirt/bustle.

One of the issues with Victorian patterns is they quite often need a lot of material, but the great thing with the Tie Apron overskirt is that it doesn’t. It also is very easy to sew and packs away easily for travel. The top was more complicated to sew and we used 3/4-length sleeves with the low square neck, which is usually used for evening option. But we must remember that this is steampunk and not authentic Victorian re-enactment. One of the joys of steampunk is that pretty much anything goes!

I had already bought the material from one of our favourite companies Croft Mill for a reasonable price. It’s a light taffeta with a gorgeous tartan pattern of red, white and black.

So the apron I made first on my own as it was a simple pattern. I did decided to edge it which took time because I plumped for a pleated edging from the same material. I added on a nice vintage button and velvet ribbon to add some weight and detail to the bottom on the ties.

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detail of the pleating and button/ribbon detail

The bodice was more complicated and as I don’t have a dressmakers form,ย  I enlisted the help of a local steampunk friend Sara to help guide me and help fit the bodice properly.

Sara is a talented seamstress and she encouraged me to simplify the process,. This was because even though we wanted to make something that looked good-because it’s for personal use and not every day use -we decided there wasn’t much point to adding in the complicated boning-especially as it would be worn over a corset anyway. The other decision we made was to use hooks and eyes rather than adding buttons . This decision was partly because sewing in button holes takes a fair more time. Also as the pattern is quite busy I felt buttons weren’t necessary to add as a feature to the top.

It took about 6 hours to make the top because of fitting and pattern matching , but we did a good job. Sara really just helped oversee my progress and gee me on when I was feeling un-confident or unsure about what I was doing. Sewing, is like anything, practice makes perfect!

Details I added afterwards was a black velvet ribbon to the edge of the bodice. It helps give the edges more strength ,aswell and look pretty . Victorian styles tend to be more flouncier, but again this was for steampunk and I personally don’t like too much frou-frou.

So i had my outfit made out of material I liked and patterns I liked. But how to turn it into a steampunk outfit?

MFO

 

Well the previous year i had bought a patch from a stall at a steampunk event in Frome from The Ministry of Feline Overlords. I loved the concept of cats secretly planning world domination by being cute.ย  Also helpfully the colours matched my material. I had also not long after picked up an electronic cat from a carboot sale. So the concept of being a handler for one of MFO’s agents came into being. I dressed Sir Henry (the cat!) up in a fancy cravat and placed him in a basket ,with cat snacks and a brush, so he was easy to carry around. The patch I attached to a hat I already owned, and sewed a nice bit of lace edging to it so it would stand out more against the black background. And hey presto! Omnes Adorate Kitteh!

 

 

 

22 Comments

  1. Lovely outfit! The good thing in sewing is that you can only get better.
    I’ve made my own wedding gown and a mock-up for a waist cincher(?). My big dream is to sew a whole rococo dress including the corset and everything but I’d not wear it anywhere I think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ah thank you! i’m quite pleased with the pattern matching especially at the front of the bodice. Before we got into steampunk, I’d always fancied dressing Victorian but never had any reason to, which is why I think i so whole heartedly got into steampunk. You could wear Rococo to the Venice carnivale maybe?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, looking good! I’m always is awe of anyone who has the patience and can sew clothes like this. You and your chap looked good, Love the cat in the basket. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the patten!! You look great in all colors but this red just lights your eyes up!!
    Sir Henry Iโ€™ll have to meet sometime!! Hopefully next year !!! ๐Ÿ˜ฝ๐Ÿ‘
    I cannot sew but have all the respect and admiration for you and Sara snd Susanna as steamstresses
    I love the hat too and A is looks quite dapper in those pics too!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. i think it’s our friend Richard who pointed out that sewing really it just sticking things together with thread. Especially if you have a simple pattern, you literally cut the material out, line it up and use the sewing machine. It’s partly confidence and experience that makes you better. A lot of steampunk sew-including the chaps!
      I like the colour and it looks good for xmas events too

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you need steady hands and eye coordination to sew especially outfits as intricate as yours. And Iโ€™ve seen pics of you in this gorgeous outfit sans Cmas time
        Clearly Steampunk is a great niche for you and youโ€™ve met some incredible people (ie Prof Elemental) and friends thru it๐Ÿค—โค๏ธโค๏ธ

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Fabulous. I bow down in front of such work – even though I like sewing, I would never have the patience (and accuracy) to make something like this. It must be great fun to wear it.
    Have you got other Steampunk outfits, too?

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    1. thank you, I do very much enjoy wearing steampunk clothing especially hand made creations. I have a couple ballgowns and a few heavier overskirts that i have made. There’s an outfit that I made for when i was bigger-but i really don’t like the photos of my in it! lol

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      1. That’s quite the wardrobe! Impressive. It must be especially gratifying because you made them yourself. As I said, I wouldn’t know how to, but I get the attraction of creating such a piece.

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  5. I love your outfit Rachel, it looks fantastic – and your rakish hat. I tip my hat off to your sewing skills as mine are woeful. And I like the idea of steampunk and pirate cross. World domination by cats? That is credible, far more than lizards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ yeah, many of the hats are charity shop buys-i think 80s styles with big feathers!
      there’s a big cross over with the pirates-it’s all just in the name of good fun really!
      and I totally agree about the cats-they’re sneaky little beasties

      Liked by 2 people

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