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.