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"...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A new book!

The thrift store comes through again, this time with a book put out by the National Geographic Society way back in 1971 called The_Vikings .

Even though it is summertime and in the 80s here, I am thinking of frostier climes and rocky fields where hardy folk toil to survive in a bleak, challenging land. I haven't had a chance to do more than give this one a cursory glance, but I am encouraged by the fact that it's NatGeo, and there aren't any pictures of men in furry loincloths wearing horned helmets.

And there are great pictures! The faces of the people are real and filled with emotion. And I'm digging the representations of the clothing: colorful and inspiringly trimmed and decorated. I can't wait for cooler weather, so I can sew wools without sweating!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Did I ever tell you all that I named my dress form "Imogene"? Well, I did. So.. now you know that.

p.s. Feed my fishies!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Effigy work continues...

I've decided against cable ties for the boning in my effigy corset, in favor of reeds. Since I've gone to all the trouble of hand stitching and choosing the right materials, it seemed kinda cheesy to fall back on the plastic just because I felt reeds would be too much hassle to get.

Dave found 1600-foot rolls of 1mm reed at Amazon for $12 -- much less expensive than I thought they'd be -- so I asked him to place an order for me and they'll be here in my hot lil' sewing paws before the week is up. I'm hoping for Wednesday.

While I wait for the reeds to arrive, I've been working on the straps. I figure that I can stitch them on before slipping the reeds into the body, and then when I put the chamois binding on, it'll be solid enough, and hopefully not look too odd. I'll post pics of the attachment when I do it, so you can see what I came up with.

The back strap piece looked a little bland all by its lonesome, though, so I got creative and decided to add a little touch of fancy by quilting in a few flowers. My blue washable fabric marker makes the design easy to see, but the actual stitching is in pale pink; subtle, girly, and sweet. Three things I'm not, but doggone it, if you can't make secret pretties for yourself, who can you make them for? At least they're not angel wings. *smirk*

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Do you feel a chill..?

Suddenly, plans and ideas are forming in my head for warmer fall and winter garb. Mmm, wool...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Corset Update.

All I can say is, this better turn out to be a fantastic corset, because I'm not sure I have it in me to handstitch 130 boning channels ever again, much less work a chamois binding through all those tabs. Ugh, what a pain!

But look at how pretty it is! I'm super-pleased with how it's turning out.

I'm worried that the cableties won't be as supportive as I want. Today I drove out into the country to harvest some reeds from Offut Lake, but I was getting low on gas and short on time (it was farther than I had thought) and I had to return home before I even set foot in the water. This weekend's not looking too good for getting reeds, either. When did I suddenly get so busy?

So anyway, it's not too late to stuff reeds in there, and maybe I'll do that. At some point. I mean, why not?

And then I had this "Oh, duhhh.." moment when I looked at my five-millionth effigy corset picture and realized that there was a significant difference in the item I'm making, and the item in all these pictures, and that difference -- that significant difference that for some reason I never, ever noticed before -- is straps.

Oh, for the love of Og.

Drea Leed, your tabbed corset pattern mentions the effigy corset, and I guess that was good enough for me to go ahead on. So now here I am, deep into construction, and there's a lonely, open space at the top of my corset that can only be filled by straps.

Fortunately! I have enough fabric to put together straps and stitch them to the main body, and then once I bind it in chamois, it'll look just fine, and work as intended.


I hope so.

It'll be fine. Sure it will. And if anyone wants to come up and make an observation like "Ooh, you got some afterthought-y sort of straps going on there, don'tcha?" I'll just be all "Hey, you wanna be Mister Big Man and make strap comments? How 'bout you put on the ol' thimble and whip up a corset for me, if you're so set on perfection?"

Besides, somewhere in England in 1580, there was someone sewing a corset and making a mistake and working up a solution just like this. So, it's period. So there.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Quickie!

It's nice to sometimes whip up a small project that can be finished in one sitting. Tonight I made myself a needlecase to tuck into my sewing-kit belt pouch.

I used brown wool for the outside, and black wool to make the needle "page" on the inside. I free-hand embroidered what I'm calling 'a carnation' on the outside, and then stitched a bit of ribbon on to tie the case shut once it's rolled up. Easy and quick, and most of all, useful. What's not to love?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More Viking!

I just realized that I had shown y'all my viking cloak, but I never showed the rest of the outfit.

First of all, I will admit/confess/share that my dress is not the traditional apron-dress that the average Norse woman would wear. That item of apparel looks like this:
Very cute, and I fully intend to make one like it someday.

<-- this is not me.

But while I was looking at pictures like that, getting my ideas all sorted in my head, I found another picture of a wildly-historically-inaccurate take on the apron-dress that made me sit up and *squee*.

I want you to look at that lacing up the side, ohmigawd. I mean, what is not to love? And the pattern could not be easier -- four identical pieces, cut as full as the width of the fabric. And that jaunty red binding? It was like a hiking boot for my whole body!

I got five yards of caramel-colored cotton duck canvas at Joann (on sale!) for $5/yard. You can find the plans I used to make it here:

I chopped up a linen tablecloth to make my smock. (I dyed it blue. Vikings love blue.) It's terrifically comfortable.

And of course one has to have the Viking bling for the front. Here's a close-up of mine. The central piece is an actual walrus tooth scrimshawed with a tiny seal.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Score, again!

Theatre company yardsale! I bought a big bin of fabric AND a bolt of velveteen (that must be at least 10 yards) for ten bucks. Too bad it all smells mildewy. After a run through the wash, I'll post swatches. ...don't get all crazy, now.

Update: I have 16 yards of 48" plum-colored velveteen. I also have 6 yards of pink something-or-other, 10 yards of tan, diamond-patterned upholstery fabric, 7 yards of a mauve slubbed fabric that drapes nicely, and 1.5 yards of a very soft cream-and-tan brocade that I wish I had more of because it's yummy. There are smaller bits of cotton duck, and a watercolor satin-y brocade that, again, I wish there was more of.

The most important and useful bit is the velveteen, of course, and I have determined that it will make Dave's waffenrock, and also my very first reproduction of an actual extant garment: the red Pisa gown ( It's the perfect color! The carmine sottana I'm working on now will be a sort of test-run so I can practice a bit before I make the Pisa. Excited!

And if you're wondering what a "waffenrock" is, here's a pic.

And no, that's not Dave. It's the hub of this incredibly talented girl here:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Let us spray...

Paternosters! What better way to show your devotion to the mother church and avoid the accusation of witchcraft then to wear your prayer beads for everyone to see?

I worked these up in an afternoon, and was very pleased with the results. The top one is Dave's, very manly, and the bottom one is mine, with a fancier tassel.

Glass beads, silk thread, and embroidery floss for the tassels -- it was all going so well until the thread broke on the second wearing and sprayed bouncing beads all across the floor of the restroom after watching Harry Potter 7, pt 2.

So, lesson learned: you need a stronger thread than a few strands of silk. Once I've re-strung these, I'll post pictures of the 2.0.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Corset update

Chamois trim is going on pretty well. It takes a bit of stretching, but stitching through it is easier than I was expecting -- I don't even have to use a leather needle, just one of my fine embroidery ones, though I think I'll have to use a few as they get dulled.

But it looks very nice; soft and smooth and elegant. Very nice finishing touch.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

No stopping now!

Elbow woes be damned, I will have this corset done for the WA Ren Faire in two weeks. And Dave's jerkin, too! But probably not my sottana. A girl's gotta know her limits. If I can, I'm hoping for just enough time to make maybe some new sleeves for my green linen dress. That'll be good enough.

Here you see 130 hand-stitched bone channels, which took much longer than I expected. Silk thread is a wonder, though -- I recommend it highly. Not just for the strength, but for the completely sexy way it just glides through fabric.

I have a piece of chamois leather that I'll cut into 1" strips to bind the edges, and then the lacing eyelets, and then it's done. *whew*


Today's doctor appointment brought surprising news: the pain in my elbow is lateral epicondylitis, a breakdown of specific elbow tendons caused by repetitive motions. Another name for it is Tennis Elbow.

How did I get this condition, since I don't play tennis? Why, by sewing, of course. Stitching by hand. Poking a needle through fabric over and over and over, thousands of times.

Who knew?

I assured the nice doctor that there was no way I was going to stop sewing, so now I have an appointment in two weeks to visit a physical therapist who will show me exercises I can do to improve the way my elbow functions. Hooray.

Doesn't that picture up there make it look painful? Yeesh, I want an ice pack just looking at it.

...okay, enough of that. Now to go finish up the bone channels on my corset.