Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Favorite Colonial Sewing Resources

Since I started my colonial sewing journey a few years ago, I've been asked by many to sew for them because they want their family to look just like mine.  As honored as I have been to be asked, I have turned them down for many reasons. One reason for not sewing for others is that I'm really not that good. lol I just dive in to a difficult garment and go for it, partly at the encouragement of my kids. From the beginning they wanted me to sew historically accurate costumes so we could be a colonial family. However I thought I'd share my favorite resources for colonial costumes.

My favorite resource is Costume Close-Up by Linda Baumgarten from Colonial Williamsburg.  Various extant garments from the CW collection are featured with details about the types of stitches used. Also provided are scaled drawings for the individual tailor/seamstress to scale-up for their own patterns. At first I had no idea what to do with this book, but now it is my best friend when I am sitting at home and full of queries.

A similar book is Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashions 1: 1660-1860, which details extant gowns from England with charts that can be scaled up for personal use.

Another book is Costume in Detail: 1730-1930 by Nancy Bradfield. This book also details extant gowns and accessories with details, although there are no patterns to scale up.

I also use patterns from various companies, which are available through Burnley and Trowbridge. These patterns have been researched from extant garments.

Speaking of Burnley and Trowbridge, they also offer period accurate fabric and various notions, even shoes!   

Burnley and Trowbridge even offers sewing classes with the Colonial Williamsburg mantua makers and tailors! I have taken three classes with them and they were wonderful and worth every penny! Who better to learn from than these mantua makers and tailors who spend their entire career immersed in primary source documents and extant clothing. I listen to everything they tell me. Any failures I have is only due to my personal lack of execution.  The mantua makers and tailors, however, are valuable treasures, a gold mine of information! They are the ones to learn from!

Another great source for period accurate fabric is the Mary Dickenson Store in the historic area at Colonial Williamsburg!  In fact, the Mary Dickenson Store also sells ready to wear costumes, as does the Visitor Center!  Additionally costumes can be rented at the Visitor Center!

I hope these resources helps everyone fulfill their dream to look colonial!

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