Saturday, March 31, 2012

Silly Weekend Fun

I don't know about you guys, but I was getting awful tired of looking at blue linen petticoats with bits of embroidery at the hemline. I felt like doing a new project-- just a quick something different to cleanse the palate, as it were.

I want to start out by saying I'm not one of those teddy bear aficionados. In fact, though a few were given to me in childhood, I never had a particular affection for them over any other stuffed toy. So dressing up bears in clothing is not something I usually do. But Ivan is different.

This is Ivan R.R. Bear, and he is a good friend of mine. He's taking time out from wearing his usual red Nordic sweater and blue hoody to show off the tunic, Rus-style pants and leather ringbelt I made for him today. Later tonight there will be a hooded cloak, but I was so charmed by the way this looked, I couldn't wait to show you.

As usual, it is handsewn. The tunic is brown linen and the pants are a herringbone wool in brown and cream. The neckline is faced with the same linen as the tunic, and it and the pants are both seamed and hemmed with the same details I'd use on a full-size garment.

I cut a strip of leather from a scrap of hide I had in my stash. The ring was left over from another project and just the right size.

The pants have a drawstring waist that ties on the inside, and the cuffs are also drawstring, though I tied the knots and then sewed them into the seam, as I don't anticipate Ivan spending a lot of time taking them on and off and it's just tidier not to have the laces hanging out all over.

His terrifically cute boots were a thrifting find -- only $2.99.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Skirtle stitching update

The stitching is going along very quickly, and looks reasonably good for a first attempt. I am pleased.

The whole design is meant to be done in the pale blue tapestry wool, but I was worried that I might run out, having no idea how much it would take. So I'm doing most of the design in the blue and leaving the flowers (except for the first one that you can see in the picture) for last.

If there's not enough blue left, I can use a different color for the flowers, maybe a pale yellow or white. (It would be easy enough to pick out the one I already did and change its color.)

The border is about 65% done at this stage. Woo hoooo!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blue "Skirtle" Embroidery Tips

The stem stitch I'm using to outline the border of my skirt-that-used-to-be-a-kirtle is not difficult. Certainly no harder than the back stitch, which used to be my standard. In fact I like it more, because more of the stitching shows on top of the garment. With a back stitch a lot of your thread is wasted underneath the fabric, but with stem stitch it's mostly on top, contributing to the motif.

When I worked a few trial designs on scrap linen, I was wary. I thought it would look too choppy and weird. I don't know why I was afraid; it's a very popular stitch that's been used satisfactorily all through history. (Hello, Bayeux Tapestry!) Who knows why my mind balked at using it at first. But now I'm sold. It looks great and works up fast. I did almost the entire top and bottom border to my design in two hours at a bard meeting last night.

One reason why I haven't done more decorative embroidery on garments is that most of my things are made with dark-colored fabrics and transferring a design pattern onto them was difficult for me, with questionable results.

In the past I've tried the "prick and pounce" method --poking the design outline with holes on paper and then brushing chalk through onto the cloth. This didn't work well for me, as the chalk easily smudged and got brushed away. I tried using a pencil to mark through the holes but that wasn't satisfactory either.

I got some wax transfer paper, which works like carbon paper -- and I realize that only people of a certain generation will even know what carbon paper is, oh my, I feel old -- and that worked pretty well, but the design didn't seem particularly bright and it seemed like I was always forgetting if I had already gone over an area, so I'd end up going over some places twice and other places not at all.

Then yesterday I heard about the "tulle" method. You take your design, which you've printed onto paper in the size you want, and lay a piece of tulle over it. (What's tulle? It's that mesh stuff they make bridal veils out of. Get a piece with a nice fine mesh to it.)

Using a Sharpie marker or similar you trace the design so that it's now on the tulle. Then you take the tulle and you lay the tulle on top of your fabric where you want the design.

Take a fabric marker (you can buy the expensive ones at fabric stores, but I just use Crayola washable markers and they've never caused me any problems) and trace over the design on the tulle. The fabric marker will go through the tulle and onto your fabric and there you have it: a perfect design transfer!

On the dark blue of this linen, I was going to use purple marker, but I couldn't find it so I used green. Can you see it in the picture up there? I took that shot in bright daylight so it would show up.

What about black? you may be asking. And I admit, marker would not work for that. But you could use a wax tailoring stick, or a colored pencil in a light shade. I've used a yellow one and it worked fine. The nice thing about this method is that it works well even on those really blanket-y wools. The tulle keeps the fabric's fibers from getting snagged on your pen tip.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blue Linen Petticoat

...because that's what it is now. I took off the bodice and hemmed that sucker into a really nice little underskirt petticoat that ties at the waist. Now I have only to transfer my design onto the bottom hem and embroider it.

You like how I said "only"? Yeah, me too.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's not ALL sewing, revisited

Back in 1953, a house was built. A cute little single-level house with two quiet bedrooms, a sunshiny kitchen, and a spacious dining room and living room with big picture windows. Our house! Although we didn't live in it way back then, of course.

Through the years, the basic layout has remained the same. Except for paint, wallpaper, and floor coverings, not much has changed. And yet there are still surprises to be found. Like when we tore up the carpet in the living room and discovered it was original to the 1953 home. The scraps of wallpaper and splashes and dribbles of paint on the subflooring showed us how the place was originally decorated. (A lot of dark green, peacock blue, and peach-y orange, in case you're wondering.)

So what's this got to do with the picture I'm showing you here? Well. This is what happens when we take a theory to its logical conclusion. Dave says something innocuous like "I wonder... since the house is plumbed for gas, but the stove is electric... do you think there might be a gas line into the kitchen that's been walled over? It looks like there's been some drywall work done on that wall..."

And then a simple bit of musing combines with my love of household archaeology, and the crowbars come out.

This weekend's project is called: Looking For Gas (In All The Wrong Places).

To be continued...


Yeah, we didn't find a gas line anywhere. When it got to the point where I was ready to start tearing up the floorboards to see if there was one running under the house, Dave stopped me with a reminder that we can always have a line plumbed in to the kitchen ourselves.

Then we went to the local hardware giant and bought drywall to replace what we cut away. Dave fixed the wall while I cleaned the noisy bathroom fan and vacuumed out the vent. Then I measured the bathroom and drafted the floor plan onto graph paper so when we remodel in there, we'll know exactly how much tile and stuff we need. But that's another project for another time.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I know what I'm gonna do, you guys! I'm going to take the bodice off the kirtle, use the leftover strip to make another panel and a waistband, and make it into a skirt. I'm still going to do the embroidery on the bottom, and it's going to be very pretty.

If you want a little peek at the embroidery I'm planning, you can see it on the border of this tapestry. The little 5-petal roses with the trailing vines, worked in a single shade of light blue wool with a straight border on top and below. I can always embellish it later if I want to.

So glad I came up with a plan! The idea of having to stash it and start on something new was a bit depressing.

Blue Linen Blues

The blue linen kirtle is all done but for the hem and embroidery -- oh, and the eyelets for lacing. And I'm not happy with it.

When I cut the 6 skirt panels, I took the measurement I needed for the top and doubled it for the bottom. I figured this would give me enough hem at the bottom to swing around without being overly generous. I didn't take my hip line into consideration. Or, rather, I didn't do the math to see if the widening gores would be enough to flare over my hips. It's a bit snug through the waist and tush, is what I'm saying.

An option would be to make a few gores to set in, and that would be what I'd do, but the only remnant I have left of this linen is a 10"x 40" strip -- not enough.

Another thing that's disappointing is the side seam where I meant to put the lacing: it doesn't match up with the skirt seam, thanks to a planning mishap when I cut the skirt panels. I thought about stitching it shut and then putting the lacing on the other side. The seam doesn't match up there, either, so in order to do that, I'd have to put in a facing and I'm not sure how that would look. And it's hard to work up the enthusiasm to do that when the fit is so snug-and-not-in-a-good-way.

Last option: lose about 20 pounds and it'll fit like a dream. The seams still won't match up though, so the lacing will be wonky.

Man my phone camera does weird things with color. This poor dress looks so drab and grey, when actually it's a very nice dark navy blue. Go figure.

I think this is a project I'll fold up and put away for a while. I'll get the bad taste out of my mouth with something new, and maybe someday I'll come back to this dress with some fresh ideas.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Is it summer, yet?

Even though it's 38 degrees f and blustery outside -- typical March -- I've got an itch to make a new dress for summertime. I picked up four yards of dark blue linen a while back while thrifting ($4.99!) and I've decided that's going to be my newest kirtle.

Oh but Wen,
I hear you whine, All you ever make anymore is kirtles! When are we going to see something new and fabulous?

Hush, you. Make your own blog.

Seriously, though; even if all I ever made was kirtles, there are so many variations that it could keep a girl busy and interested for a long, long time. You know. If she was interested to begin with. Sleeves? No sleeves? Short sleeves? Lined or unlined skirt? Wool? Linen? Contrasting colors? Matching tones? What shape neckline? Waist seam, gathered, pleated? No waist seam? I
think you see what I mean.

And this one has the added interest of -- wait for it! -- decorative embroidery! BAM! That's right, cats an' kittens, this one is going help build my embroidery skills by working a border around the bottom hem, the sleeve cuffs, and the neckline.

I want a blue linen kirtle with short sleeves and an unlined, unpleated skirt that falls from a lined bodice. My inspiration is
Bettina's look shown on her page. (She does such nice work. I really wish she would update us on what she's doing these days; her stuff kinda stops in 2010.) I'm adding an assiette-style sleeve that will come to just above the elbow, yardage permitting.

So far I've finished the bodice, except for lacing eyelets. Tonight I'll start work on the skirt panels, and once they're done, then the embroidery can begin. I'll post pics of what I've done on the bodice after work.

The outside.
The white whipstitch on the side is just temporary for fitting. That's where the lacing will go.

The inside!