Friday, December 30, 2011


I've been meaning to make myself a pair of stockings for quite a while. I even have the yardage set aside: a lightweight soft blue-grey wool. One of my inspirations, Racaire ( ), mentioned on Facebook the other day that she was making new hosen and posted some pics. Since I had just finished my boar haversack, I was ready for a new project and this one seemed like the perfect one, something small and quick.

Racaire made her pattern by fitting a muslin to her leg and foot. I tried that and quickly discovered that I suck at poking straight pins through fabric at the back of my leg -- although I'm super good at poking pins through my leg. Ow. So out came the duct tape. I made my pattern and cut it out of some poly-wool blend that came in a bulk stash I got at a yard sale. It's a pretty green color, but it looks kinda like astroturf when you get up close. Anyway, here's the end result:

There's an obvious issue around the ankle, and the top of the thigh is really loose. So it's back to the fitting room for more pins and then round two. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Hat-mas!

I made Dave this hat for Christmas, and it's been killing me that I haven't been able to post a picture of it for you all to see. The pin looks like a little wreath in this pic, but it isn't. It's a gold pin with a red stone in the middle, very classy, and not wreath-y at all in real life.

It's based off this picture from the 1500s.

I used some 1/4 inch thick Italian wool cloth I got at the Olympia Artists Sale last summer. The results are terrifically pleasing to me! Dave says it's really warm. Too bad the average daytime temperature here has been like 45 degrees lately. I think both Dave and I would like a drop into the 20s (at least) so we can show off our wool finery in comfort.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's not ALL sewing...

It's time-consuming, but delicious. This year's loaves of Marzipanstollen came out of the oven last night, and made a terrific breakfast this morning. Raisins, dried apricots, apples, cranberries -- all soaked in brandy for a day or two, then kneaded into the sweet dough and rolled up with a ribbon of marzipan swirled through. Also incredibly good toasted.

(I put a link to the recipe I use in the comments. One thing, though -- I soak the fruit for 24 hours, sometimes more, not just the hour they recommend. I like my fruit absolutely bombed.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Window Wonderland

You know, Washington state is a very nice place to live, but sadly, we hardly ever get snow until after the holidays. In the 20-some years I've lived here, I can only remember one or two white Christmases.

Hooray! I hear you think. Because snow is a pain. Shoveling it, driving in it, slipping in it -- plus it's cold! Let's all move to Washington!

Ah, but no, my friends. I love the snow. Growing up in North Dakota, snow was as much a part of Christmas as cookies and reindeer. If I look outside my window and see green, it feels like I'm being lied to. December? Christmas? I think. Heavens to Betsy, no -- why, it can't be any later in the year than October, surely!

So this year, to cover up the view of the lawn (and to minimize the habit of the dog to sit and watch out the window for things to bark at) I created a miniature snowscape using parchment paper. Spray adhesive sticks the whole thing to the window, yet the paper still lets light in.

Here we have a polar bear making his way through the snow to a cluster of pines. I'm not sure if there are pine forests up on the tundra where polar bears live, but in my winter wonderland, that bear likes a few douglas firs around.

The middle window is the playground of a troop of happy penguins. There are even two in the middle there holding flippers; so in love. Awwww...

And on the other side a reindeer keeps watch for jolly fat men in red suits who might try to toss jingle bells over his back and make him pull a sleigh. Or maybe he's just nervous about that polar bear he heard was hanging around. Don't worry, little reindeer -- the bear will have to eat his way through all those penguins before he gets to you, and by then, he's bound to be full.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Locally Famous for Cloaks

Apparently my GoT cloak is inspiring jealousy all over the place. Thank you all; I shall take a bow.

But remember my cloak? The one for me? The red one? Scoot back a few entries and you'll find it. Red wool, and I'm stitching a black applique border onto it. Well, as I've mostly gotten my holiday projects done, I finally have time to get back to it, and that is very pleasing to me!

I'll have the border done in another night or two, and then comes the part that's been giving me fits: how to hide the non-period-style slash pockets on the front. I can't just sew them shut and brush the wool to felt them over; they're too obvious for that. The only real option I've been able to come up with is to cover them, and I'm thinking more applique is the way to go.

At first I thought of using rampant stags. It's the holiday season and apparently I have reindeer on my mind. I figured if they were posed rampant, the diagonal stance would just gloss right over those slash pockets, and ta-dah!

(<<< thank you, Hungary, for your example of a rampant stag.)

But then I started worrying about things like "Is this going to be appropriate to my persona?" and "Wait, aren't stags reserved for royalty or something? Or is that unicorns?" And then I start wondering if anyone would ask why there were stags ramping on my cloak, would I be able to offer a better defense than "Deer are cute! Yay reindeer!" I mean, I've heard intimidating tales of SCA garb-cattiness. I don't want to make a fool of myself.

Finally I landed on my usual attitude-adjuster of doing what pleases me and if anyone has a problem with it, they can pick up a needle and make me a cloak. So I printed out some of the rampiest stags I could Google, and tried fitting them for size on my cloak.

And they looked all wrong, skinny legs flying all over, and equally frail antlers... they just didn't fill the space well. Those stags looked spindly and tiny and alone. Then I remembered the family blazon, and the majestic boar's head. Perfect.

Wait til you see this cloak, you guys. It's gonna be terrific!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


There are so many fun ideas percolating around in my brain these days, but they're going to have to wait until after the holidays before I can start playing. Besides work, I have gifts I'm committed to make before the scissors come out for personal projects. The gift projects are going well, but of course I can't show them here or it'd ruin the surprise!

We're not going to be making it to Glymm Mere (SCA) Yule Feast this year (filled up before we made reservations, oh no!) so there's no rush for me to put the finishing touches on our winter gear, but I would still like to get my stockings made, plus a pair of woolen pants to keep Dave warm. Maybe I can find a little spare time for that. Maybe.

I need to applique the rest of my cloak border. I'm thinking a fur collar would be a nice addition, too, and I have a black faux-fur coat that I could fashion one from.

Anyway, I haven't forgotten about you all. I'll have to see if I can get some pictures of things I'm working on, or maybe some older projects I haven't shown you yet. Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Winter is coming! Update!

As promised, here is a full-length shot of the Game of Thrones-inspired cloak. Not only am I pleased with the way it turned out, but I think that Dave carries it off. Not all men can wear fur without looking like a popinjay, but I think he looks masterful and rugged.

Winter is coming! Part 2

It's Dave's birthday, and I surprised him with a warm cloak in the style of Game of Thrones. As he was preparing to head to the gym and was wearing shorts, he would only let me take a pic from the waist up, but later on I'll add a full length shot and show some of the details.

I made the body of the cloak from a coat-weight, coarse-woven bit of wool. I'm not sure what kind of animal (sheep, goat, alpaca?) gave the fleece for the wool, but it smolders and goes out almost instantly when subjected to a burn test. It's wonderfully warm.

The fur around the shoulders is wolf. Yes, it's real. But it's also vintage, so if you feel bad about an animal dying to make this fur, then you can rest assured that it would long ago have died of natural causes by this time anyhow.

As you can see in this inspiration picture, the cloak is fastened by way of two leather straps which attach at the shoulders. I did a little research and believe (though I've not been shown any evidence from the GoT series or costumers) that the straps continue around the body and are fastened at the back with a buckle. I used two matching leather belts and they worked perfectly, though there weren't quite as wide.

It's a good thing I made my plan to construct this cloak way back in August, because it took me a long time to find all the pieces I needed -- especially the fur. That was a real steal at Goodwill for only $20.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I cleaned out my sewing stash/corner. I took before and after pics, but I'm too embarrassed to post them -- no one can know I'm creatively messy! -- so you'll just have to imagine the piles of yardage and spools everywhere and pins, pins, pins.

Did you know I've drafted around a dozen patterns since this time last year? Dresses, pants, sleeves, shirts -- all sorts of things. If I hadn't been folding them into marked 9x12 manilla envelopes, I wouldn't have believed it myself.

I threw out that sottana I started. For one thing, I never really liked the fabric. For another, one of the small side gores was upside down because of the way I had to cut it to conserve fabric, so it looked odd. Just grabbed the whole mess and stuffed it into the trash. I didn't even stop to try to think of something else I could do with the fabric -- it had only cost $4 to begin with -- and it felt so good, you guys. Whew! One less half-done project dragging at my brain.

All my spools are on the rack that I got at Joann Fabrics -- all 60 of them. How can I have so many colors and shades, and yet not have anything to match the fabric I'm working on when I go look? Oh well, thread's pretty inexpensive too, for the most part.

I have yards and yards of pretty jacquard ribbon, in all kinds of colors. I love the pretty flowers and patterns, but somehow whenever I think I'll use some of it in a project, I end up deciding it looks fussy and wrong and I throw it back in the drawer. One of these days I'll put some on the cuffs of something, honest!

Imogene, my dress dummy, is wearing a purple coat, a tan hooded capelet, and a green velvet top hat. She has such a sense of style ... and humor.

Anyway, this post goes to show that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. The holiday season is going to be keeping my busy with projects and clients, but I'll do my best to scribble an update here whenever I can. Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Winter is coming!

It's cold outside and I have made ambitious plans for making holiday gifts for my friends and family. This is something I think of every year, but this year is different in that I actually made the plan while I actually had time to do the work. Yes! No more waiting til the week before Christmas to decide that handmade gifts would have been very nice.

Ooh, Wenny! I can hear you say, What are you making? I want to see!

HA! No such luck! For many of the recipients are probably reading this right now and that would spoil everything.

I like italics today.

Dave gave me a coupon he found for 50% off any item at Goodwill. I hope I can find something really awesome to get with it. And that's about it for now. Except that I will mention that if you receive something knitted from me, please believe me when I tell you that it was made with love. Because I hate knitting so very, very much, there must be a lot of esteem for you to make me pick up needles.

p.s. I hate knitting.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


It's been hard for me to work up interest in any of my projects for the last week. I think the rain is getting to me. Anyway, today I decided that I would wear my new wool gown for Halloween tomorrow (and to show off, let's be honest) and that by itself, it just kinda looks like a blue dress. What could make it look more 14th century-ish? Why, a hood, of course!

I found a lightweight grey wool in my stash, but when I held it up to my face, it was kinda scratchy. I can usually tolerate wool, unless it's on my face or wrists. (Hooray for the chemise!) So this was going to have to be lined. A bright red cotton flannel is jaunty and attractive, if not absolutely period. It was only a matter of an hour or so to cut it out and stitch it together.

Now I have this. It's lightweight but warm. I was pleased with myself until I pulled it on and looked at myself in the mirror and thought... "it looks like I chopped up a grey sweatshirt."

In the future, perhaps some embroidery or a bit of gimp trimming to make it look less ...athletic. But for now, it's a project done and that's good enough!


*pafft!* It's the future! Woot! Last night after posting this entry, I got all het-up about my hood and embroidered a chainstitch border all the way around it in red. I think it's much improved, and intend to add another row of the same to fancy it up even more.

Wore it along with my blue gothic gown today for Halloween dog walks, and got a lot of comments and compliments.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


..oh no, not mine. I have work to do! Dave's actually the one going away. He's off to a cigar con in Vegas with his buddy Jed, leaving me home alone for five whole days.

But it is rather a vacation for me, in that I don't have to think about things like clearing my latest project off the dining room table so we have a place to eat, or wondering if I've been hogging the tv for too long watching reruns of Frasier on Netflix. Also, whole bed to myself! *sprawls*

Glorious! Josie and I will have a wonderful time.

<-- This is Josie. She's my five year old Lab/Pointer mix, and the smartest dog in the world. She's wearing a party hat because that's how we roll here in Awesome Land.

I'm plan on working on my walking skirt while Dave's away. I've found a pattern online -- free!-- that's my starting point, and once I've drafted it out on wrapping paper, I'll make a muslin. Frankly, if I get that far, I'll be happy, but if I have time and it all goes faster than I think, maybe I can get the actual skirt made. It's gonna be the brown and pink stripe, folks, and then I'm making a polonaise to go with it. The polonaise is gonna be brown with a rose graphic outlined in pink embroidery from the the right front sweeping around to the back. Trust me, it's gonna be jaw-dropping. ...I hope. =)

Anyway, it's time for work, so I'm off. But stay tuned for more vacation adventure ahead!

Oh shoot! I forgot to link that free skirt pattern!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


And just that quick, Wenny changed centuries. Oh, not for good. Well, I don't think for good. Nah, probably not. But check this out:

I got about nine yards of this stuff at -- you guessed it -- Goodwill for five dollars.

It spoke to me from the hanger and was all like "Hey, how about you and me get together and make a Gibson Girl-style bustle dress?" and I was so taken by the stunning brown and pink combo that I didn't even feel the gilded-age hook sink into my lip.

(That's a nickel there, so you can gauge the width of the stripe.)

I've never done anything even remotely close to this before, of course, so this is full of new challenges. And in case you're wondering, I'll not be hand sewing this one. Thanks to timeline technology, I have entered the age where it is totally "period" to use a machine. Which is good, because oh my goodness there's a lot of stitchy business to these dresses.
Want to see some inspiration images? Charles Worth is your man. He was the designer for the gilded age, and if you were anybody trying to be somebody, you had his creations on your back. Just gorgeous stuff. Look:

And if you just do a search for Victorian striped dress, you get a lot of images on that too.

This one isn't C. Worth; it's actually a vintage costume, but those crazy angles on the stripes are totally period -- and insane. I don't think nine yards is enough to make a dress like this, with having to accomodate stripe direction and all. Too bad. I would love to give this one a try.

As it is, I'm taking a few ideas from here and there and cobbling together my own plan for a walking skirt and a polonaise, and if you wonder what that is, or looks like, then just google "Dolly Varden dress" and you'll see. I gotta go to work, or I'd link an example here. Later!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Red Riding Hood?

I got this Herman Kay hooded cape at Goodwill for ten dollars a while ago. It's a nice, heavy, coat-weight wool with wonderful drape, and I saw immediately that with a little work it could be a perfect outer layer for colder weather.

First to go was the shallow hood; really more of a flap to tie around one's ears, and not terribly functional. As it was only connected by a serged seam, it was easy to remove without damaging the cloth. Then the big plastic buttons at the neck came off.

All the edges have been overcast serged to prevent fraying, and I decided that the best way to take care of that modern touch was to cover it -- something that would be accomplished nicely by the applique border I intended to work on.

Racaire ( has always inspired me with her work, and so I hope she won't mind that I interpreted one of her spectacular motifs into a black border for my cloak. I made a stencil that I could use to make a repeated pattern, and cut it out of lightweight black wool (which was tricky for me, but more time-consuming than difficult) and here it is, pinned in place and waiting for me to stitch it on. (The white "spots" are the pins reflecting light.)

Except that I have no black thread. And as it's ten pm, I'll just be waiting to buy some tomorrow and start sewing then.

I think it looks pretty good! If you look very closely, you can see the chainstitch embroidery I started working on the front opening. The border is only going on the bottom and sides. I have a few other ideas that I'm thinking of to finish off this cloak, but I'll save those to show you later on.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Change of plans!

I got to feeling really "meh" about hoods. I'm gonna mess around with a modern cloak I got that I'm stripping back to a more middle-ages look, and I still have to get Dave's doublet done, so stay tuned for updates reflecting that, and any other side projects that catch my attention. Hooray for my ad/hd!

The Fuschia File, part 5

More dye fun with the fuschia wool.

Hoping to tone down the pink a bit more, I tested swatches in dyebaths of Rit Dark Brown, Dark Green, and Navy Blue. Having used the brown before, I was simply hoping for a darker, wine-colored result. I theorized that the blue shade in the green dye would counteract the red/pink tones, and make for a more true brown. And the navy blue, well, I just had some of that left over. I figured it'd just go purple, and I wasn't far off. So here's the results:

In order from left to right: Dark Brown, Dark Green, and Navy blue, sitting on the original pink.

The whole tone of the picture is yellowed because of the indoor lighting available, but as you can see, the results were along the lines of "What shade of pink were you hoping for?"

Lesson learned: 5 yards of florescent pink wool is at Goodwill for a reason and should probably stay there unless one is making a flamingo costume.

But in the interest of salvage, I am going to mix the brown and green dye together, and try one last time to make this wool into a usable color. If I fail, it will be cut into strips and become a rag rug. A very pink rag rug. Unless someone has a better idea..?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hood Bedlam. Hoodlum?

The hood is not a new project. I made a "liripipe" hood (the kind with the long tail) about a year ago, out of plum-colored flannel, but I was never happy with the way it fit. I dug out the mock-up I had made back then to see if I could figure out where I went wrong.

On comparing it to the directions on the page I linked yesterday, everything seemed fine. The measurements were accurate and by those instructions, this should be a fine, good-fitting hood. So why is it all bunched up around my neck? Why does it fall forward over my face and have this periscope-like tunnel of fabric that I have to cuff back three times in order to be able to see where I'm going?

Out comes the needle and thread, and I baste a few new seams, taking the top and back seam down by two inches each. Much better. I angle the face down to the chin to eliminate the I'm-wearing-a-tall-turtleneck look and decide that moving the gores up about two inches towards the head will take care of the bunching up around the neck.

This afternoon I'll cut out a new muslin, and we'll see if the changes are good. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Consummatum est!

The 14th Century Gothic fitted gown is done!

I'll post pictures as soon as we find a bit of spare time to garb up and take them. Flu and sinus infection ran roughshod over us and has left our dwelling looking a bit... tornado-struck. First priority is to get things up to an acceptable standard, then I can put on my pretties and parade for the camera.

Tonight I'm going to make an effort on getting Dave's doublet decorated. He chose some metal rings that I'm going to stitch to the front in a pattern of some sort, and I'll be removing the buttons in favor of appliqued leather fastenings on the front. Should look pretty sharp!

I'm consulting with an artist friend for an upcoming project, and once things get a little more progressed there, I'm excited to tell y'all about it. But for now, my next project looks like it's gonna be....


I'm starting with the instructions found for the fitted hood on this page: , pretty simple, and I'll be going through my "small wool" drawer to see if there are any bits in there that would make a particularly appealing hood.

So, more on that later!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Delays, delays

So I've got this horrific head cold. It lasted a few days and then I thought I was felling better, when WHAMMO, suddenly my head is stuffed with hot cotton and I can't breathe. All but the simplest tasks are met with a overwhelming feeling of irritation and frustration. The idea alone of making 30 buttons and stitching 30 buttonholes sends me horizontal on the couch with an ice pack over my eyes, wailing.

I have tried over and over to make decent woolen buttons, using the simple and concise instructions found here:
Yes, I know it's in Dutch. But those pictures are so clear, and my experience with German and Swedish actually help a lot, too. But no matter what I try, or how big or little I make my circles, my buttons don't shape into attractive little balls. They look like diseased bum holes. They are awful. I didn't even want to take a photo, they're that bad.

My dress is so close to completion! I want to get it done! I've even toyed with the idea of using wooden or pewter beads instead of making buttons, but I know that after I got done, I'd always feel defensive about the choice because it was stylistically wrong. It's to hard to be historically accurate in the face of buttons and a headcold.

But I can't let this beat me. I'm going to make a cup of tea and keep trying. Here's hoping the next post will be one of success.

'Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.' Michelangelo

UPDATE: I made buttons. It was fine. Go figure! Nine down and 21 to go. I know what I'm doing after work!

FURTHER UPDATE: I find that I actually like stitching buttonholes! I'm done with the front button/buttonholes, and have done half the buttonholes on one sleeve. I'd do more but I'm noticing that I'm starting to get sloppy, which means I'm tired and it's time to do something else for a bit; perhaps a steamy shower to loosen my sinuses. They're beastly!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

14th Cent Fitted etc.

I wasn't happy with this dress when I finished the sleeve attachment last night. I tried it on over my t-shirt and felt that the neckline was too wide and deep, and the way it hung on my shoulders wasn't right. The color of the sleeves bothered me a bit, but you already know my feelings on that. I voiced my concerns to Dave and he wisely counseled that I try it on with the base garments I intended, and see if that made a difference.

Dave is so smart, you guys.

So right now I'm wearing (yes, as I type!) my linen smock, then my red flannel pettibodies, and the wool fitted gown to top them all and let me tell you: it weighs a ton! It's like walking around with wet terrycloth bathrobe on! But now that I can see and feel the true fit of the dress, I feel better about it.

Dig that gold lining!

Also, cute wool socks!

I still think the neckline is too wide. I might make a collar/inset kinda deal out of the sleeve material to bring the neck in a bit. The red flannel shows at my shoulders, and while it's bright and pretty, it's rather like having one's bra strap hanging out and I'd rather it didn't. By matching the collar to the sleeves, the difference in blues might look more like a design feature and less like a make-do, so there's that. We'll see.

This picture is the truest, color-wise, showing the difference between the body and sleeves. It's not so bad.

The sleeves and bottom of the skirt still need hemming, and of course there's all those buttonholes to work in (plus buttons to make, argh!) But I feel better about it now than I did at bedtime last night, so well done me and thank you Dave.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gothic update

I have one sleeve done. It's a beauty! Here's the thing, though: it's the wrong color.

See, I have made dresses before. Thing is, it's been summertime, so none of them have had sleeves. Red pettibodies, red kirtle, brown Flemish overgown, viking apron dress, green kirtle -- no sleeves! (Well, I guess technically the green kirtle had sleeves, but they're detachable and I rarely wear them.) So when I made my pattern and placed it on the fabric and said "Yes, I have plenty of fabric to make this" and got out the scissors and started cutting, it wasn't until after I got the body sections and gores snipped out that I thought "Oh yeah. Sleeves, too."

Sleeves take way more fabric than I think they're going to. I need, oh, almost a yard to cut sleeves, especially when they have little gores of their own like these Grand Assiette ones. So the 15 inches of remnant I had left after cutting out the body and gores was just not gonna be enough. Fudge.

Goodwill is awesome for many things, but one thing it falls short on is being accommodating when I show up late at night and say "I need another yard of that blue wool I bought a few weeks ago." Yeah. It's a real what-you-buy-is-what-you-get kinda place.

So I went to my stash and looked at all the wool bits I had available. No dark blue. I had green, red, brown, white, taupe, grey, tan, a brown-scale herringbone, black... once again, I looked at an overflowing drawer of fabric and chanted the sewer's litany "I don't have any fabric for this..."

Finally I took the grey and a packet of navy blue Rit and cooked it up to see how close a match I could get. And I was super-pleased when it turned out just right. I showed it to Dave and he agreed it was totally workable. The wool was a little lighter weight, but not by much, and since it's lined sleeves, it's no matter, right? And so I cut them out, stitched in the lining, attached the left sleeve to the dress body, and hustled off to try it on.

Now here's another thing: I do most of my sewing after dinner. Once the dining room table is cleared of dishes, I give it a quick wipe, slap my pattern cutting board onto it, and start throwing my needle and thread through wool and linen like a champ. I have a swingarm lamp for when I do picky work, but for general stitching, the dining room overhead light is fine.

But in the light of day, that sleeve blue was... obviously off.

It wasn't awful, but it was easy to see that it was not the same stuff. More blue, less navy/black.

My first reaction when things aren't exactly perfect, or I have to make do is to say "Well, that's how it's gonna have to be. I've done the best I can with what I have, and if anyone wants to say anything about it, they can be Mister Big Man and buy me yardage, or put on the thimble, and make me a dress."

My second reaction generally involves wadding the offending article up on the cutting board and then slinking to the bedroom, where I fling myself onto the duvet and mope for however long feels appropriate to the situation.

My third reaction reverts to the first, only I say it more strongly this time, and mean it.

So. My sleeves don't match perfectly. Who cares? A lot of sleeves were separate articles in those days, and weren't even the same color, much less the same shade. They're fine sleeves, made and fitted well, and if anyone wants to call me out on the color, well: Let's see them make a better dress for $5.99 and a packet of Rit.

Monday, September 26, 2011

14th Century Gothic Fitted Gown, update

Here you see the problem with making a dark blue wool gown: there's no way to take a picture of it and not have it look like a big dark blob.

Egad, and you can also see the mess that is my sewing enclave. (That bit of red? It's a wool half-circle hooded cloak I picked up at Goodwill for $9. And next to that is my pile of drafted patterns that I still need to make envelopes for.)

Anyway. Even though you can't tell from this picture, the gown is going great. Once I get the sleeves done and set in, it'll be time for the buttons. I am not looking forward to that, not one bit, but... *shrug*... I'll learn.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Fuschia File, part 4

Today I tried an overdye of Rit Dark Brown. But the fabric was so resistant; it almost seemed to be repelling the dye! When I dumped the used dye out, it had turned a dark wine color. I think the fabric changed the dye's color more than the dye changed the fabric's color.

Now the wool is more of a raspberry shade. I stuck a post it that used to match on it so you could see the difference. But it's still quite bright. I think an overdye of black is in order, don't you? Or green. Something to muddy it a bit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Fuschia File, part 3

If you ever wondered how important it really is to wash your fabric before sewing, this pretty much sums it up: my 5 yards of 58" fuschia wool is now 3.5 yards of 50" wool. And I was washing it on a cold, gentle cycle, too -- although the 10 minutes in the 135-degree color remover bath probably contributed a bit to the shrinkage.

Other than that, (and the fact that it's still eye-jarringly bright) it's now lovely, thick and soft, and once I turn it a more appropriate hue, it will make a very nice garment. If I'm careful with my cutting, I can probably get a gathered-skirt kirtle from it.

With a dark brown over-dye, I'm hoping to achieve a sort of wine color. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Fuschia File, part 2

Rit Color Remover may do well in removing new color stains from fabric, eg. you wash a red sock with your white linens, but it doesn't budge the color that your fabric has to begin with -- at least, not in my experience.

To be sure, a lot of bright pink sluiced off when I washed it, and more when I put it into the vat of Rit, but I doubt it was very much more than would have washed out or bled in hot water anyway.

The color may dim, however, in the three subsequent washes I have run the fabric through in an attempt to shake the abysmal odor of the stuff. It's horrible, strong, and lingering. Like rotten fish, or ammonia, or sulphur. Ugh, just awful. The packet said "use with adequate ventilation" but I didn't think they meant "this stuff will make your house smell like a whorehouse full of home permanents". I'm never using it again, and I'd advise anyone else against using it. Phooo.

But just for fun, here's a picture of my fabric sloshing around in the kitchen sink, bleeding pink dye all over. It looks a bit yellow because of the light reflecting off the walls. Kind of organic-looking, isn't it? Yuk! Once I get it out of the dryer, I'll show you how it turned out.

The Fuschia File

Today I got (among other more reasonably-hued bits) five yards of 58" hot fuschia wool. For $5.99. Take a moment to absorb that amazing price, unclench your fists at missing out on this bargain yourself, and look at this picture:

Holy cow, is that bright. And you know what? The picture doesn't do it justice. It rather tones it down a bit, actually. The actual color is so violently pink it makes your teeth vibrate.

Good Lord, Wen, I can hear you saying, Why on earth did you ever buy it? What can you possibly plan to make out of that? Why, that color didn't even exist in the middle ages!

Tut tut, my friends. The price was just so darn good, I could not pass it up. And I have a secret plan. Well, not so very secret, as I'm going to share it with you, right now: Rit Color Remover. (

I have never used this stuff before, though I've been using Rit dye for years and usually get the results I'm hoping for. With a color this bright, I feel a complete removal is too much to ask, but hopefully the pink will be toned down enough that I can overdye it with another color and come up with something useable. And if not, well... I can use the stuff to make mock-ups or something. Cut it into a rag rug. Whatever.

So. Stay tuned. Pictures will follow with my results.

Monday, September 19, 2011

14th Century Gothic Fitted Gown

My Moy idea has amended itself into a gothic gown. No, not like the dreary Morticia Addams get-up you see in Hot Topic -- more like this. Though mine will have buttons at the front, not lacing, and sleeves buttoned to the elbows.

(<--- not me.)


The reason for the change is because of the Moy sleeve. The more I looked at it, the weirder it seemed, and my mind went round and round with different piecing ideas from the many images I looked at, so finally I went with my original inspiration: the grande assiette sleeved dress I first saw here:

Bettina's stuff is just lovely, and inspires me to no end. What a talent she has! Go ahead; spend some time looking at her work. She's really doing it up right. And that tent! I can't wait to work on something like that for Dave and I.

(<--- also not me.)

The bin of yardage odds and ends I got at a yard sale for $5 is providing me with plenty of scraps to make mock-ups with. It's very freeing to be able to cut and trim and experiment without worrying about ruining my good fabric. Sure, the stuff is hideous and the colors are daunting at times, but I had to do four test sleeves to get the fit right and fit has nothing to do with color. And now I know when I cut out my sleeves, they will be just right.

This particular fabric (at left) is a nubby cotton blend of orange-ish gold and pink. It's really soft, for all it looks like a waiting room lounge. Dave actually likes it on me and said I should make a full-on dress from it. Uhm. No. It's ugly and frays like crazy.

(<--- yes, me!)

Want to see the fabrics? You know you do! Here's one of the gores. I put it in the sun so the colors would be more true. The navy blue wool is really dark. The gold linen lining is changeable in the light, sometimes it has almost a greenish cast to it. If you're old enough to remember Harvest Gold appliances in the 70's -- that's the color here.

And as I started stitching it together, all I could think of was this:

Oh well.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Side Project: Hakama pants

If you, like me, watched The Last Samurai and thought "Man, those pants look supremely cool, and totally comfortable" -- or am I the only one who thinks things like that while watching movies? -- then you might be interested in the construction of Hakama, the traditional garb pants of Samurai.

After a little digging, I found and used this helpful information
( to turn an old set of seersucker curtains into a test-run pair of hakama. They were surprisingly easy! More appropriate material choices might be a medium bottom-weight cotton or linen -- something that will take a crease and hold it. I would love to make a pair of these in a dark blue cotton printed with tiny cranes.

In this picture, I am pleased to introduce The Boy (my son, who is always requesting me to make him amazing clothing items, and I'm thinking maybe I'll just teach him to sew!) and The Girl (his girlfriend).

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I visited one of my favorite dress-blogging sites yesterday -- -- and was super-pleased to learn that I had been randomly chosen to win two patterns of my choice from her stash! Hooray!

I chose Simplicity 2621, a corset and farthingale pattern, because I've been meaning to make a farthingale for a while now, and more corsets = more fun, right? So that's cool. And for my second choice, I picked an Elizabethan court dress pattern, Simplicity 3782, because I gotta have something to wear over the farthingale and corset!

These will be my first projects with patterns I haven't drafted myself. That's kind of exciting. Of course, I have a kerjillion other things on my list, but keep watching my blog here and eventually you'll see what I make with my pattern-prizes.

A big thank you to Artemisia Moltabocca!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

You Learn Something New Every Day...

...and today was no exception. I was making something I've never attempted before, with no instructions to guide me except my own design and common sense. Something I've never seen before, and could not tell you the name of, except that I'm calling it a "Lucet Reel". Intrigued?

This is a lucet. String is cleverly worked around the two prongs to form a series of loops and knots that make a cord.
Lucets have been used since Viking times and probably before. (And no, I did not make this lucet.)

I like working a lucet because it is fast, makes useful cord, and is pretty darn portable. Mostly I've been using crochet cotton to make cord, because it's sturdy and doesn't stretch. I take my lucet and ball of crochet cotton along in the car (Not when I'm driving, silly! If I'm a passenger.) and can easily crank out 5 feet on a trip to the grocery store. But it is unwieldy to tote that ball of cotton around. If only I had a clever case that would attach to my belt or sling over my shoulder, that held my crochet cotton and left my hands free to work my lucet or gesticulate wildly while telling a story!

Oh my, I can make one.

And so I made a plan. And bought some bits. And worked out my idea.

Here it is.

I wanted ... well, basically a toilet-paper spindle sorta deal on which I could hang a spool of thread to work on my lucet. I had a big old wooden spool from some red thread that I finally used the last of, and I figured that I could just wind however much thread I needed onto it.

I would use a piece of dowel suspended between two pieces of wood (I decided on round after realizing that rectangular would just get too bulky with those unnecessary corners), and would tack a piece of leather around the round wood bits to make the case. Perfect!

Here is the inside of what will be the case: some dark brown pebble-finish soft leather and a bit of cotton canvas covering a thin piece of cardboard. I folded the
leather over and glued it down with some leather adhesive. The nails that would tack the leather to the wooden sides would eliminate the need for stitching the leather and canvas.

I put it all together and rolled it up, fastening it with a few
hair ties.

Then I carefully tapped the first tack into place... and then the same on the other side... and then there was an odd snapping sort of noise and that was when I realized the tacks had split the wood ends.

See that? How the wood has completely split and separated from the rest? Dave says my tacks were too big, but the were the tiniest I could find. So small I have to use needle-nose pliers to hold them steady as I tap them in with my hammer.

I'm going to try gluing the wood back together and using smaller nails. I liked the way the tack head looked --rugged, sort of -- but it's obvious they won't work for this at all.

Oh, and that gap? Yeah, that's not meant to be there. That's what comes from measuring and cutting the leather without taking its own bulk into account. Fold in a seam, and suddenly it's too short. Since it still needs a clasp to shut it, I figured I'd just cut a decorative piece that would cover the gap and fudge it that way. We'll see. Stay tuned and see how this one turns out!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Plans, plans, plans...

Dave and I went to our area's September Crown SCA event and enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. Even though we hardly knew anyone there, there were vendors with wares to peruse, everyone else's garb to check out, a blacksmith forging iron into pothooks and nails right in front of us, bards singing and playing instruments, and one huge cake covered in buttercream frosting that was slowly melting in the 85-degree heat and dripping into a sloppy, bee-attracting mess (a sad fate for any cake, I'm sure you agree).

After watching the heavy fighters for a bit, we walked through the campsites checking out the various pavilions and tents, and there came a point where it was all so overwhelming and I had to stop in my tracks and wail, "There's just so many things I want to make, Dave, and not enough time for them all!"

Well, that's not to say I won't give it a try. Next project I need to finish is a wool dress for the upcoming cooler weather. I've decided to go with the Moy Gown (I'd link, but you'd do better to Google it. There's a lot of different sites, and they're all quite good). I have some dark blue wool that I picked up a while back, and so today while I was doing laundry, I tossed it in with some other things while I drafted a pattern. It washed into a lovely, thick, soft piece that I found myself hugging for a few minutes after I'd folded it out of the dryer. I can't wait to have a dress of this stuff!

I'll be making a test-run garment first, to make sure of my pattern, and the material I'm using for that is a hilarious white and gold diamond patterned bit of yardage I got in a mixed bin at a yard sale for five bucks. I'm actually anticipating seeing what the test-run dress ends up like. I may end up wearing it just for fun. I think a bright solid-colored sideless surcoate would look great with it; something I could wear when I just didn't give a damn for authenticity.

The blue Moy will look terrific over my red flannel petti-bodies, and I have a bit of forest green diamondweave wool that I plan to make into a chaperone (hooded capelet, no liripipe on the back) to top it off.

Dave's doublet needs a real finish on the front, with the leather button plackets and decorative embroidery on the white wool, and he needs pants to wear with it, too. And sleeves. And epaulets, yes.

But what I really need is... someone I can talk shop with, who knows more than me and can guide me when I have questions. It's all well and good for me to look things up when I need an answer, but what I'd really appreciate is someone who can look at what I'm doing and point out thing I might not be thinking of. Like what? Well, I dunno. If I knew, I'd not need someone like that, would I?

Anyway, it's seamstress bedtime. Stay tuned for pictures of the Mock Moy in the future!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Doublet of Dave ... for now.

The doublet got "done enough" this morning at 2:30. The wool buttons were the sticking point; figuring out how to make/making those took over an hour and a half. Ugh.

The original design plan was to make "hinges" of leather to serve as button plackets across the front, but once it passed midnight, I just wanted to get it wearable so I could go to bed. (Work in the morning at 6!) I made a fingerweave braid of brown and white and stitched it along the front seam, leaving loops to act as buttonholes. It made a nice finish, and is easily removable when I have time to re-visit the doublet and finish it the way I originally planned.

And yeah, I know what you're thinking. I did forget the epaulets. But I can add them later too.

Finished: Fabbard

Here is my fan scabbard ("fabbard") all done up and ready for use. Yeah, it's a little lumpy. Yeah, the design isn't all that great. But considering it's the first time I've made anything like this, I think it's not a bad start. It serves, it's sturdy and reasonably attractive, and it's given me ideas on how I can improve the design for next time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Side Project: "Fabbard"

I like to carry a fan with me when it's hot out, don't you? Especially since air-conditioning is exceedingly rare at Renaissance Faires. I kept my fan stuck in my belt until the time it fell out unnoticed and I had to trace my steps to recover it, hoping all the while that it had not been trampled by a horse, the pickle wench, or some hapless commoner with a head brimming with ale.

"Never again," I vowed, "shall my fan fall to ground unheeded!" Plans fomented then and there for a scabbard for my fan -- a "fabbard", as my new friend Carrie Soderquist named it.

After futzing around with bits of scrap this-n-that from my stash, I decided on a simple tube-like design in leather, lined with wool to cushion and protect the fan and add a more substantial and finished look and feel to the scabbard itself. Some leftover copper wire twisted into a braid and threaded between the leather and wool forms loops through which I can pass a bit of woven cord and tie the fabbard to my belt.

I'm kinda making it up as I go, so the finished product might be a little rough-looking. It will also be functional, though, and a conversation piece, and will serve just fine until I feel the need to make another -- probably better -- one.

(The black ribbon is just there to hold the seam steady until a little bit of glue on the seam dries. Then I'll stitch the seam more easily.)

More doublet stuff

You know what I did wrong? You're gonna laugh so hard when I explain.

I forgot to add the 1/2" seam allowance all-round when I cut the back piece. No matter that I wrote in big, black letters on the pattern "add seam allowance!"

It's a rookie mistake. BUT! Fortunately I have a plan for fixing it. The doublet seems to rest all right at the shoulder seam without making the armscye too tight; the main problem is the one inch gap in front where the hems won't meet. I'm simply going to make wool strips to match the rest of the garment and insert them where the front and back meet on the sides. My first thought was to make them look like a bit of decorative trim, but I think that would draw too much attention to my error.

I'll cut them out when I cut out the skirting and epaulets, and it'll be just fine. I'll load a picture later on.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ongoing: The Doublet of Dave

The doublet is gorgeous: tiny stitches, the wool and lining going together beautifully (and quickly!) and the hand to it -- oh my, it's like holding a vest made out of kittens, cupcakes, and rainbows.

Too bad it fits entirely incorrectly at the neck.

I don't know what happened! I used the pattern from a muslin I made like two months ago, and it should be a perfect fit! But no, instead, the neck-to-shoulder length is all off, and tries to crawl up his neck. I'm going to try to work it into a kind of stand-up collar/lapel sorta deal, but I think..I think there are scissors and restitching in the future.

Ah well, it's not a project until you've torn out at least one seam, right?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Doublet of Dave

While I fret over the corset strap business, I've taken up my next project: making Dave a jerkin/doublet for September Crown. I have about a week, and I don't anticipate any problems in this straight-forward project.

I've chosen some brown wool stuff for the outer fabric, some cotton duck canvas for an inner layer, and pale sea green linen for the lining. I have the back panel almost done already, after only an hour or so of stitching. One front panel is the same brown wool, and the other is cream-colored wool that will have three brown wool diamond shapes appliqued onto it with supplementary decorative stitching in brown wool.

My camera phone has a tendency to make indoor photos with artificial lighting look yellowish. I'll take future pictures in better light! Until then, if you look at this fabric and think about those Ande's creme-de-menthe candies you get after dinner in some restaurants, or mint chocolate-chip ice cream, you'll not be far off. Working on this piece makes me hungry.

*edit* Here's a better pic in daylight. That pale green really doesn't show up well. Just as well: if I made you all hungry for mint ice cream, there'd be less for me!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Okay, so. I dealt with the strap issue, and I did the foxy lil' embroidery on the shoulders, and then I go to sew the jobbers on, annnnd... the design interferes with the attachment. There's a deep wrinkle/fold.

I thought it would be okay and I could just deal; that when I had it on, the natural tension would pull it smooth. But I know I'm just kidding myself. It looks bad, and if I just go ahead on with it like this, I'll end up with a corset that I'll never be happy with.

Having taken so many pains to do diligent, quality work so far, it's senseless to cheat myself at this point. There's nothing for it but to go back a few steps: pull out the stitching that attaches it, tear out the embroidery -- maybe just some, possibly all, in favor of a different or modified design -- and start again. I also need to close the channels that go under the strap attachment, or the reeds there will work their way up, possibly damaging the fabric. Or me.

I can't lie; this is a disappointment, and I'm hoping that I don't have to re-work the whole strap idea from scratch. Fortunately, I have enough of the fabrics that I can re-cut if need be.

On a brighter note, I cut out the pieces for Dave's doublet this afternoon. Brown and cream-colored wool, lined with pale green linen. It's going to be a nice piece. I have plans for applique and embroidery to fancy it up.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I've found lots of people writing about their reed-boned corsets, but no one really outlined the method they used, other than "I put reeds in it."

I wanted a bit more info than that; like how to prepare the reeds, and all, but had no success. So I did what felt right to me. If that's the information you're searching for, here's what I did -- and you can look to future posts to detail how well (or not) it worked.

I used wire cutters from my garage to cut the reeds to about 18" lengths. I filled a bucket halfway with tepid water, and soaked the cut reeds in it for about ten minutes, just enough to get them evenly wetted. I swooshed them around with my hands a bit, then took them out of the water and shook them in the yard to get all the excess water off.

It was 85 degrees today, so the reeds were barely damp after a few minutes. I fluffed them up so the air could circulate through the pile while I used the beeswax on them.

My beeswax was just a 1x3" block I got at shipwreckbeads for $2.50. All-natural, of course, and it smelled wonderful! I held it in the palm of my hand and drew the reeds across it, pressing them against the block with my thumb. I wore a metal thimble on my thumb to protect from slivers. I found that I could do four reeds at a time, turning them to make sure that both sides got waxed.

In about half an hour, I had soaked and waxed enough reeds to do my entire corset. They were pliable but not wet when I slid them, five at a time, into the channels of my corset.

In theory, soaking the reeds keeps them malleable and prevents breakage while working them, and the beeswax helps hold a little moisture in the reeds to allow them to bend, but not snap, when the corset is worn. Apparently it's also a bit of a preservative.

I had no trouble at all working the reeds into the channels, and I'm very pleased with the result. Now to trim the reeds, stitch on the straps, and finish the right-hand eyelets, and it'll be done!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thank you, Mister Mailman!

My reeds came! They were waiting on the front porch when I came home for lunch. Now I have to work the rest of the day while my brain tries to stay here and play with the corset.

At 1 mm, I'm thinking 8-10 reeds per channel will be about right. All I need now is little piece of sandpaper to smooth the ends, and some beeswax to keep them supple, and about 3 hours to work them in.

I'm almost finished with the strap add-on, so things are really starting to take shape.

Does anyone have any hints or tricks for working with reeds? I've conflicting stories of washing/not washing the finished corset, as well. Maybe it'll be "ongoing research"...