Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Liebster Blog Awards!

Artemesia Moltabocca of Diary of a Renaissance Seamstress bestowed upon me the Liebster Blog Award. The Liebster highlights up-and-coming blogs with less than 300 followers. I did a happy little hands-to-open-mouth yip of astonishment and delight, and it was such a fantastic feeling that I want to pass that Moment of Squee on to some of my favorites too. You should really take a look!

1. Mylla's Medieval Musings is like sorting through your button jar and finding one with rhinestones in it. Her updates are starting to be more regular now, and I'm so glad, because she does some amazing things -- not just sewing -- and she also enjoys showing off links to incredible things her friends do.

2. Historical Recreations is a treat to read because not only does Niamh O'Rourke make lovely things, but she's very thorough in her research and the pictures she shares of her garments are terrifically evocative.

3. Fuzzbutts makes me laugh. I met Ashley Rhodes while playing World of Warcraft and she is one of the funniest people I know. Her cartoons feature the antics of her sociopathic cat, her often-confused-but-always-enthusiastic dogs, and her husband, who is perfectly matched to her and always one step ahead of the critters. She just had a baby this month, and I'm hoping that she'll still manage to find a little time now and then to post new content. I can't want to see the baby join the comedic ranks!

4. Haandkraft is awesome. At first I had to trust Google Translate to read this one, and I don't think that GT has a real grasp on what is going on sometimes. Now Louise and the gang are starting to blog in English as well as Swedish, hooray! And if you don't read Swedish or English, well, first of all, how are you reading this? and secondly, the pictures themselves are fantastic enough to make this blog worth checking out.

5. As The Needle Passes is one I check out often, and am always happy to see with a new post. I am leaning toward more embroidered decoration on my projects, and Cateline inspires me with her simple, elegant designs. Plus, like me, she seems to be a stickler for using period fabrics -- wool and linen here -- and the fact that she does this work and has two young boys is reason enough for accolades.


Sewing Day!

Kind of a misnomer; to me, every day is sewing day. But in terms of the local SCA group (Barony of Glymm Mere - today is a fine day to all meet up, our various projects in hand, and talk and eat and sew and show off et cetera.

I have Dave's tunic to embroider, and his Rus pants to make, and he is eagerly awaiting their completion. So why am I sitting here thinking of other things I could take instead? I'm itching to take up scissors to cut a new dress from some blue linen I picked up. There's a martingale collar for Josie that I want to embroider and assemble. I have a super-secret project that I have been planning for most of a year and finally have the materials to start (and you'll see that posted here once I begin; I'm excited to show it!). They all seem more attractive ideas than fighting with the frayed tunic of frustration. But I'll not give up!

One of the things I'm proudest of in this sudden sewing interest that took over my spare time only a year and a half ago, is that I have managed to complete almost all of the projects I started. The reed corset and my red cloak are still on hold, and there was that sottana effort that I finally just chucked in the trash (and how freeing was that?!) but otherwise, every project I have cut out and filled with pins has become a part of my wardrobe. And that, my friends, is a freakin' miracle, I hope you agree.

In other news, I picked up some spools of heavyweight thread at thrift yesterday. I got two spools of black and one of red, which is fortunate because I have upcoming projects that need those colors. The spools are large and made of wood, and one of the ones holding black thread is dyed red, which is awfully jaunty. In the bag with them is a cardboard reel holding 100 yards of 1/8 inch pale aqua rayon taffeta ribbon. No plans for that, yet.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Amazing Bayeux!

The entire Bayeux Tapestry is online now, in a beautifully presented side-scrolling format. Besides being a brilliantly told tale and a feast for the eyes, it's also a wealth of inspiration for when you need a little something to decorate a bag or whatnot. Look at the borders; they're full of birds and animals and people doing their own thing.

One of my favorite parts of the whole tapestry is near the beginning, when everyone is getting on the boats. One fella has a falcon on his wrist, and the guy behind him is carrying a dog. I love that. I can just see that dog taking a look at the boat, and the gangplank leading to it rising and falling on the waves, and the dog saying "Oh, no way. I'm not going in that." And so his master has to pick him up and tote him on board.

Check it out!

Monday, February 27, 2012

In which I grumble about seams.

I'm working on a simple Norse tunic for Dave. The fabric we chose is a brown wool tweed that is a little different from the other wools I've worked with in that it frays. I did the seams with a simple running stitch and then went over them on the outside with a bright red straight whipstitch, which looks very bright and pretty. Colorful over-stitched seams are very common in this style of garment.

The amount of fraying that is going on inside this tunic is unbelievable. Once I finished the overstitching, I knew I was going to have to finish the seams inside and I was mad at myself for not doing my usual flat-felled seams beforehand. See kids? This is what happens when you take shortcuts.

Since the 1/2 inch seam allowance I originally left had frayed down to half that, I decided the best way to deal was to turn them under and hemstitch them. Ever try to fold 1/4 inch into 1/8 of an inch and sew? It's not easy. In fact, it's pretty miserable work. I'm trying to think of some other way that I can neaten these seams and stop the fraying without going completely mad while doing it. You can see that some of the frayed bits are already poking out again.

As a last resort I will make iron-on tape from interfacing and ribbon, and cover the seams with that. No one will see, right? But until then, I'm open to suggestions..?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In the cards.

I found this deck of Flemish playing cards from the late 1400s and found something I had never seen before in the manner of garb: look at the men's stockings. Is that fancy embroidery on the thigh? I think it is!

Check out the entire page here --

Monday, February 20, 2012

Charles Worth, again

Remember me talking about Charles Worth and the fantastic gowns he designed for the social elite in the early 1900s? Turns out he also loved a good cape. Here's a design he did, based on a 16th century Spanish riding cape. Isn't it a treat?

Check out full info on it here:

It's a good place to browse and get lost. Might wanna take a sandwich along.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Iron Seamstress

In my own personal version of "Iron Chef", I have accepted the challenge to make myself a new dress for the Baronial Ball this coming weekend. I started last Sunday night with a plan to use some blue-grey wool for the dress and scarlet linen blend for the lining. All handsewn.

I took my inspiration from,
a lovely dress and just what I had in mind. Here's a pic for those too lazy to chase the link. (This is not me. It's Alina!)

I needed a lining, and for that I chose a tomato-red linen blend that had been hanging around in my stash for a bit. Nothing perks up grey like red, right?

I cut out the bodice, using a pattern I drafted last fall that had a fitted back piece that I liked. I made a muslin first to make sure of the fit and it seemed a bit snug. Have I gained weight? I wondered, as I made a note to add an extra inch to the back. When I cut the two front bits, I added extra room at the front as well, with the theory that it would be easier to take it off than add it on, if needed. (Can you tell I've been burned by measuring mishaps in the past? Incidentally, I ended up not needing the extra inches. Just paranoid, I guess.)

Right sides together, I backstitched the hems, then pressed them flat, clipped the points and the armscyes, turned it right-side out and pressed it. Whipstitched the back to the fronts in the traditional way, then tried it on, pulling the front snug and straight and marking where it met with pins. I used a 1/4" cable tie on either side to reinforce the seams where the lacing eyelets would pull.

I hate stitching eyelets, but nothing else looks right, so there ya go: traditional spiral-lacing spacing, one and a half inches apart. One eyelet takes me 10-15 minutes, horrible things. I wanted to leave them for last, but I knew that it would be better to just get it over with and not give myself an excuse to stall. I did most of them in the car, too.

That took two days.

To make the skirt, I just halved the remaining yardage lengthwise. I have done this in the past and it was the perfect length, so I didn't even measure. Oh my goodness, such hubris. So once it's cut, I hold it up and realize that once my skirt is hemmed it will only fall about halfway past my knees.

You'd think I'd take a moment here to fling my pincushion across the dining room, but you'd be wrong. I had a plan B. I chose some scrap navy blue wool and made a six-inch wide stripe and stitched it to the bottom hem. Still too short. I made an eight-inch strip from scraps of the grey and stitched that onto the bottom of the blue. Perfect! But that made for eight yards of hand stitching that I had not scheduled for, and the days were ticking by.

Then I realized that with the additional width on the skirt, I didn't have enough of the red linen blend to line with. Okay, now I throw the pincushion.

But I'm not the Iron Seamstress for nothing. To the stash! I find some linen in a muted grey-gold and there's enough of it to make up the difference. Hooray!

The purpose of the lining (besides warmth, I suppose) is so that one can tuck up one's hem and show off a pretty little flash of cheerful color. I don't want a stripe of grey-gold and a stripe of red when I tuck up, so I decide that I'll put the stripe at the inside top of the skirt. No one will see it there, unless they're seeing enough of the inside of my skirt to be more interested in other things.

Stitching that extra bit into the lining is another four yards of hand stitching that I didn't plan on. I can do a yard of back-stitch in about 45 minutes, so you can see the chunks of time these mistakes and amendments are adding to the project. Not to mention the time ironing all the seams flat and such.

Finally I get the skirt and lining parts ready, and pin them right sides together to prepare for the top and side seams. (The bottom hem will be done last of all, after I've attached the skirt to the bodice.) It is almost midnight on Thursday night, and I only have one more day to sew. And I have a full work day on Friday, complete with two evening clients. I think about how much time it will take to stitch two 42-inch sides and four yards of top and compare it to the time I have available. Then I still have to pleat the skirt, attach it to the bodice, and hem it.

I won't have enough time. There's no way. And I'm already so worn out from a busier-than-usual work week, plus the previous late nights of sewing. There's nothing for it -- something's gotta give.

I decide (and believe me, it wasn't easy to come to this decision) that I will machine-sew the top and sides of my skirt. They are inside seams that will be hidden and covered by hand-stitching, so it won't be obvious. This will save me approximately five and a half hours of sewing time. I load a bobbin with grey thread and in fifteen minutes I have stitched the top and sides. I put the machine away and fire up the iron to press the seams flat.

Friday forenoon during my break I am folding in pleats. My plan for box pleats is a no-go; even with close deep folds I still end up six inches longer than my bodice width. I change the plan to knife pleats but no time for that now! It's back to work and not until the afternoon do I get back to my project. I make pleats about 1.25" wide, and overlap the edges a bit, and finally get the fit I need.

Friday evening I finish the pleats and attach the skirt to the bodice with extra-strong thread and close stitches. For the first time, I can try on the dress and see if there's anything seriously amiss in fit or drape. ...nope. Everything looks great. I'm very pleased! And I'm especially glad because once again it is near midnight and I'm just plain tuckered out.

The morning of the big day arrives. Six am finds me eating cereal and pinning my hem, then it's off to work. On my break, I stitch half the hem, and in between clients I find a little time to hem a new apron out of the remaining grey-gold linen. Back home, I finish the hem and I AM DONE! I have 90 minutes before the Ball begins -- just enough time to shower, do up my hair and get dressed in my lovely new grey kirtle.

The back should come up a little higher on the shoulders, and I think the armscyes are a bit big, but all in all, I'm very pleased with the results of my one-week, intensive effort.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I always wanted a pony!

This is "Arthur". I've been looking for a way to use up the little bits and scraps left over from garment construction, and finally hit on the idea of little toys. What could be cuter? This pony turned out better than I hoped, but I think next time I'll make the nose less pointy. The bridle is only tied-on yarn right now, but I'm going to embroider one onto him so that it can never be pulled off and lost. The decorative saddle and blanket are removable, however.

The knight comes next, then another pony and a fair maiden, of course. Someone has to rescue that knight when he gets into trouble. Then, what do you think: a dragon, or a different kind of monster? Maybe an evil wizard? ...I sense a collection growing.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Yesterday at one of my best thrift sources, I picked up these skeins of wool. They are made in Great Britain: P&B Brand Beehive Tapestry Wool, and here's the groovy part in case you can't make out the label -- they are war time production. What war? World War II, when many things were rationed in England, including clothing and the fabrics and notions needed to make it.

"War time production. Use double for pre-war thickness."
Such an interesting find! And I paid a vintage price, too -- only $2 for three skeins.