Monday, October 28, 2013


A quick picture from last weekend's Steamcon V. I kinda wish I'd thought to take my name tag off, but it's a fine picture of us just the same.

"Dave, I think I see where you dropped your monocle!"
Photo credit goes to the fantastic Nate Zimmer, whose creativity makes me smile!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

More Steam!

I think I'm a little excited about my first con and my outfit. Know how I can tell? I keep making more things to go with it. Necessary things, though!

Like I suddenly realized that wearing a hoop skirt would mean I'd be getting drafts up my legs while I walked, and I'd be cold. I have long, over-the-knee socks that would help, but I didn't want my thighs to feel like chilled hams. Brr! I needed an undergarment. I was all set to make my own -- in fact, I had started stitching pink swiss-dotted material together, but then I looked at all the other things I have to do between now and Friday morning, and decided that it was time to lay down some money rather than work my fingers to the bone.

I bought a pair of pajama pants in the perfect colors and  rosebud design, cut and hemmed them to the proper length and ran some elastic through the cuffs. I stitched on some ribbon bows for a touch a fancy and ta-dah! -- a quick pair of bloomers.

Don't tell my mother I posted a picture of my knickers on the internet! 

See the shoes in that picture? The angle is not great, but those are three-inch heels. As a girl who usually wears sneakers and riding boots, I knew my feet would be likely to complain after a bit, and no one wants to have sore feet at a con. I think it's the most basic rule: Wear comfortable shoes.

But I am a rebel. And those shoes are so cute and perfect for this outfit!

My plan: to wear the heels and carry a pair of ballet flats in my bag to change into when the going gets tough. Then I looked at the little tapestry mini-carpetbag I had planned on using and realized that changing my shoes would mean carrying my heels in one hand for the rest of the day. And that tapestry mini-carpetbag really didn't go with the rest of my outfit, despite its steampunky cuteness. I needed a new bag. A big one! To the thrift stores!

I found nothing. Nothing. But then I remembered an old satchel-style bag I got years ago. Maybe I could remake it into something workable.

I didn't want to just hot-glue a handful of gears onto it and call it Steampunk, because sticking non-functional gears onto everything is kind of like putting a picture of a horse on your shirt and saying you're a cowboy. I took leftover fabric from my skirt, a brass peacock medallion, some paper fasteners, and soft leather scraps and thought about old trunks and hatboxes. Half an hour and some hot glue later, I had finished my bag, and I'm terrifically pleased with the result. Now I have a nice roomy bag to carry all my doodads, my flask of something sustaining, and my heels -- and it matches my outfit perfectly!

The bag itself is black, but I'm gonna hit it with a little brown spray paint (protecting the fabric flap from the spray, of course!) to make it look more aged and beat up. I think it's a total win!

Okay, now I swear I'm gonna stop making new accessories. I am, really. No, really. Only two days 'til Steamcon! I'll try to take loads of pictures to share here when I come back. In the meantime, have YOU ever been to a Steampunk event? Do you have any advice (besides comfortable shoes!) to share with a newcomer like me? 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Steamcon 2013

I'm headed to my very first convention, you guys, and it's a humdinger: Dave and I are attending Steamcon V this weekend!

We've only dabbled a bit in the local steampunk scene, so my costuming and research isn't as developed in the field as my middle ages stuff, but I have a few nice things -- like the ruffled skirt I made a while back, the one I call my "candybox skirt".  That skirt is the basis for what I'm calling my Steampunk Equestrienne outfit. Behold!

I got the burgundy jacket a year or so ago for three bucks and was going to tear it apart for use as a basic jacket pattern. Imagine my delight when I found how nicely it matched the stripey taffeta of the skirt! It had two big patch pockets on the front, but I took them off and I think it improved the look of the jacket greatly.

Leftover gold fabric from the underskirt makes an ascot and a pocket square. A basic white linen shirt goes underneath it all, with the collar turned up. A finishing touch of fancy is a cameo-style brooch I found (where else) at thrift, for only two dollars. I think it's hilarious.

There's a riding crop, and I have a tapestry bag that holds my brown leather riding gloves and a flask of something sustaining. I found a plain black felt bowler hat that fit me and was five bucks, so that was a good deal, but it seemed a bit lackluster. I tried tucking a small peacock feather into it, but that didn't seem right either. So I took a trip to the craft shop.

Ten dollars later I had some silk flowers, a decorative bird, some accessory feathers, and some tulle fabric. I fussed with them over the hat for a bit (pitching the kitten from my lap where she was "helping" at least a dozen times) and was delighted with my results. Look!

The colors look really bright in this pic because of the flash. They're actually much closer to the muted tones you see in the first, full-length shot. I think it's really effective!

I feel completely prepared to turn out smartly at Steamcon and you know what?  I've managed to avoid the top three steampunk tropes: gears, corsets, and goggles. How about that!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Okay, I really like this one!

We're planning on going back to Camlann Medieval Village for Yule, and I wanted Dave to have something new and festive to wear. I had originally decided to use this dark spruce-y green wool to make a dress for myself, but I knew it would look good on Dave so I pulled out his measurements and my scissors and started cutting. (For reasons unknown, my camera insists that this fabric is a medium grey. I thought that it was the fault of the flash, but no, the pictures I took in daylight are all pale, too. I'll try to get a better shot of the color later. I just really wanted to get a post up for y'all.)

Funny thing about those measurements. I've gotten so used to making close fitted garments for myself that I forgot that Dave's measurements were for his actual body, not for a garment.  So I was a bit dismayed when he tried it on and looked like a sausage! Also, he made some remark that cast doubt on my skills. He should know better than to do that when I have pins and scissors at hand. 

I needed to put some width in there somehow, but how? Finally I hit on the plan of taking out the 6" square underarm gussets and replacing them with kite-shaped ones. This would provide a little ease through the chest and I hoped that would do the trick. 

Nope. Better, but there was still some tightness through the waist. Fortunately I had made the side gores a bit too long and hadn't hemmed the bottom yet, so I took them out and raised them higher, overlapping the underarm gussets a bit, and got about three extra inches per side that way. Dave slipped the tunic over his head one last time and I crowed with delighted success.

This is the side, showing where the underarm gusset meets the skirt gore.
That little bit of overlap made all the difference!

I finished the bottom hem and did the embroidered trim while watching the Walking Dead season premier. I'm not a huge fan, but my friends were there and it was a fun time. I sorted through my stash of tapestry wool and tried all kinds of color combinations but Dave and I both liked this pale grey and cranberry look best. I worked the design freehand with a simple stem and cross stitches and I'm pleased with the results. 

The Xs aren't perfect, but they weren't meant to be.
I just wanted a little pop of color. 

I'm trying not to think what a pretty dress this would have made. Dave will be very handsome at Yule in his new green tunic, and I'll be so proud to show him off. Besides, I have five yards of a beautiful blue wool in the stash waiting to be a dress for me.

Subtle and handsome, just like my Dave. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A bit about a bit.

Just wanted to share a picture of the bit I picked up the other day for my horse. I found it at a local antique shop. Sometimes I wonder if the people running those shops have any idea of the real value of all the items they have. Old western bits are not as popularly collectible as, say, Hummel figurines, and I'm reasonably sure the guy in this shop just kinda squinted at this thing and made a guess.

He guessed wrong. I got it for a song. And I'm not gonna say where it was because someday he might have more, and I want to continue getting good deals there.

That's silver, folks. Silver.

This is an impressive piece of horseware, and it takes literally years of gentle, consistent training of both horse and rider before something like this can be used effectively and with respect.

My horse, Imp, is very well trained already, so my riding instructor (who spent years learning this technique, has over 40 years of experience, and has trained three horses completely through the 5-6 year process to carry this sort of bit) figures it will take about two years to get him to the point where he's ready. I am hoping that by the time he's ready, I am too!

P.S.  Yes, I am still making stuff. This blog is still about me making stuff. There will be a real post here by the weekend about actual stuff I've actually made with my own little hands and you guys, it's even 14th century stuff so please don't stop reading my blog just because my last few posts have been about horse gear, kittens, and how much I hate cheap embroidery frames.

P.P.S The kitten is really cute and a total handful. Just a moment ago I caught her swinging from the computer cables and she's really mad I made her stop. "Moxie" is the perfect name for her!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mom the Magnificent

I don't remember where we were going-- it if was a family trip to visit grandparents or what-- but I do remember my mom in the passenger seat with a sewing project spread over her knees. This may not have been unusual; perhaps my mom always did needlework on trips while my dad drove and I had just never noticed. But the size was an attention-getter; it was a spread for a double bed.

A few well-chosen colors of embroidery floss made up the simple design. I have no idea how long it took her to complete (I was in high school and had little attention for anything outside of my personal interests) but it must have been over a year. We both have the tendency to work on projects, stop, and return to them later -- even years later. I once took six years to complete a simple blackwork sampler, and I can imagine her saying to herself "We're going to be in the car how long? Hmm... maybe I'll finally work on that bedspread."  So many Xs. So much work! I never would have finished it, I'm sure. 

I came home from work on Thursday to find a big package on the kitchen stoop. Dave is always ordering stuff from Amazon, so I was surprised and delighted to see that it was for me -- and even more delighted to see that it came from my Aunt Ruth, my mother's older sister. Slicing the tape and opening the box, I saw the acorn pattern and instantly remembered the car trip. Oooh!

Our bed is a queen, so the cover doesn't drape perfectly, but my mom has stitched a long sleeve along one edge so it could be hung on a rod as a wall hanging. I'll find the perfect place for it (Maybe The Boy's room, once he's got his own place?) and display it proudly. Isn't it gorgeous?

Took about five seconds for our cat Bosco to hop up and begin applying a layer of cat hair to the surface. That's her job, after all. 

Details, and my mom's mark: MM86. That's 1986, back when I was a senior in high school and the earth's crust was still cooling. And I believe that is entirely hand-quilted, as well. 

(Mom? Can you add any information on how long this project took you?)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

We've got moxie!

I feel like I'm getting behind on posts, but I swear I have a good reason, and here it is --

She's slightly damp as the result of having a bath to rid her of fleas!

We got a new kitten on Friday, and I'm realizing again how babies of any kind tend to take up all the time and attention available. Just today we let her have more freedom in the house (she'd been quarantined in the bathroom until we were sure of her litterbox skills and could supervise her introduction to our other cat and dog) and she is ... well, just everywhere.  And into everything! We named her "Moxie" for her bold nature, but I'm wondering if "Mayhem" might not have been a better moniker.

Things should be back to what we call normal around here in a few days, and I'll have a new project to post. I'm almost done with a wool tunic for Dave, and I just need to take some pictures. So stay tuned for that!