Monday, February 29, 2016

Meet Linus!

I've dipped back into historical sewing, but in a different sort of way. When I got this American Girl "Kaya" doll, I knew two things right away: not a girl, and not going to wear the commercially available fringe-and-feathers stereotypical nonsense. 

So meet Linus Charbonneau, an eleven year old boy of Metis heritage living in North Dakota in 1982.  He likes playing basketball and racing slot cars with his older brother Leon.

During the height of the North American fur trade, many French trappers and fur traders took native women as wives. The women served as important social go-betweens, guides, and translators for the newcomers to the native population, and the resulting mixed-heritage generation is now recognized as the Metis. 

Linus is wearing some typical regalia of his French and Chippewa heritage. It's modern, but based on traditional clothing from earlier generations. 

The red wool coat is called a "capote". They are constructed from a single Hudson Bay Company blanket. Red and black ones like this were popular, and also cream-colored ones with wide multicolored stripes. Length also varied, from shorter hip-length jackets on down to mid-calf or more. Linus's coat is quite long, but it gives him plenty of room to grow. 

Capote were usually worn tied shut around the waist with a wide woven sash.  The sash is probably the most recognized article of Metis clothing: brightly colored, intricate, and useful. Folded over and tied around the waist, it was a perfect pocket to stash small necessaries, and a single thread was occasionally pulled from the long fringes at the ends to use for quick mends.  I haven't made a sash yet because I'm still learning fingerweaving, so that will have to wait for now. I want to do it justice! 

At the back is a generous hood, with a black tassel. The tassel was decorative, but also useful to tuck into the sash to keep the hood from flapping around while it was down. 

French traders carried lots of silk ribbon. It was light to carry, colorful, and popular in trade. One of the ways native people used it was as decoration on shirts and jackets. Today ribbon shirts are a part of many tribes' powwow regalia. Linus is wearing a blue cotton calico with shell buttons. The blue ribbons represent the Metis people, and the yellow represents prosperity. The Metis are well-known for their exceptional beadwork, so Linus has a small beaded flower at his collar.

Beading was often done on fabric which was then sewn onto garments. This way it could be removed when the garment became worn, and put onto something new. This is the very first beading I have ever done, and I'll admit it's not the greatest. It's also on a small scale, so those beads should be about 1/3 the size they are, but jeepers, I'm new at this! Someday I can re-do them properly in tiny wee beads, and then it will be easy to take off the fabric and replace it with glorious, beautiful, in-scale work. 

Here's a close-up on my nascent bead work. I think it's pretty, though not a patch on what real Metis work looks like, of course. 

All in all, I learned a lot while designing this outfit. Metis history is fascinating and it was interesting to see how the French and native cultures blended together.  I still have moccasins, that sash, and a bag to make in the future, so you may see more of Linus later on. 

Now go make something! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sorry, not sorry?

Sometimes I look at my blog now, as compared to previous years, and I think, "What the heck happened?"

I mean, when I started out, this was going to be all about me hand sewing reproduction garments, discussing my methods and techniques, and posting brag pictures of my beautiful wool. linen, and silk clothing.  I was going to find similarly creative people so we could learn from each other. Maybe get some custom orders. At least gain the sort of status where I could show up at a con or event and have maybe one or two people say "Oh, hey! I read your blog!"

Then horses showed up and leatherwork and restoration got interesting for me. Should I really do this post about the saddle? I asked myself. It's not like the stuff I usually do. But I did, because hey, they certainly have worked leather throughout history. Maybe this saddle isn't as historical as all that, but if you do leather for historical times, some of the sewing techniques and cleaning methods would be applicable.

Steampunk stuff. Fixing beat up old trunks. Doll stuff.

It's diverted quite a way from my original intent. My stats page shows me people are still reading about the same as always, with the most popular post being the one with the steampunk plague doctor's mask. It is pretty cool, but I know the main reason it gets so many hits is because someone linked it on Pinterest and shared my old technique of marking off stitching holes in leather with a fork. That and my rambling post about the St Birgitta's cap are my two big hits, far and away.

When I started here four years ago, I thought about naming this "The Wennaisance" because how clever is that, but as a more avid 14th century girl, I decided that was a bit off-base. I went with "Wenny Makes It" because it was easy to remember, I could not think of anything else quickly, and I wanted to get started. And I'm glad I did. Whenever I get hung up on how far I've strayed from the original middle-ages intent I started with, I just remind myself that four years is a long time for an active mind to stick purely to one thing. I make a lot of stuff. It's all valid here.

Sometimes I feel like I'm disappointing my original readers. Maybe they see I've updated and think "Oh, I wonder if she's sewing a new gown?" and then they look and... "Nope, it's something about buying rope at a boat shop. *sigh* What a weirdo."

So if you're one of those, all I can tell you is to stick around. With all the stuff I find to interest me, you can pretty much bet that it won't be boring. And I still have some lovely wools and linens that need to be made into clothing. and a bunch of ideas.

Monday, February 8, 2016

No Dress for the Tomboy

I've entered a gift exchange on a AG collectors posting board. After filling out a form detailing my general likes, dislikes, and the sorts of things I'd like to receive, I was given the information of another person, a $35 spending limit, and four weeks to ship them my gift.

I was terrifically excited while waiting to get my giftee's name, so I jumped the gun a little and started work on a beautiful, glorious, complicated outfit. I know, I thought, I'll make this amazing dress and undergarments and a hat and they'll be so completely blown away! I had this cute fabric that was pale yellow with tiny navy blue stars on it, and a new pattern I'd just gotten and wanted to try out for a dress styled after one from the 1850s and I was just raring to go.

The bodice and sleeves are lined with cream-colored silky fabric. I hate doing linings on regular human-sized clothes, and let me tell you, it isn't any more fun on wee little dolly things, but it really makes a nice finish and looks impressive.

The pintucks, the two-part sleeves, the lining-- it was not an easy dress to make, but look how gorgeous! And entirely stitched by hand with silk thread; why, it's a work of ART.

I knew my giftee was going to be blown away when she opened this. And I was ready to add a petticoat and a wrap made of navy blue raw silk with a fringe, and, and, and...

...and then I got my giftee assignment and she was not interested in fancy dresses. Her doll is a tomboy.

Dozens of doll people in this exchange, any of whom would drool unabashedly on this starry frock I had made, and I get the one who says her doll likes to tinker with car engines.

Challenge accepted. 

I set the silk and pintucks aside and pulled out some brown wrapping paper. I was going to make a pattern for mechanic's coveralls.

They're really just pants and a shirt connected at the waistband -- just like how a dress is really just a blouse and skirt connected. I did some quick sketching and measuring, came up with a pattern I thought would work, and whipped up a quick toile to check it.

Once I was sure it would fit and look right, I cut my pieces from an old work shirt. Blue stripes were perfect for that mechanic look, and the doll's name on a bit of iron-on patch to make a nametag added just the right touch. (They still need finishing on the collar and cuffs, but I had to get this post up while I had time!)

But what's a mechanic without her tools? So I set off to find some tiny crescent wrenches (thank you, Home Depot!) and then cut a scrap of oiled leather to make a tool kit. Flannel pockets hold the wrenches and two screwdrivers neatly in place, and the whole thing rolls up. Two buckled straps hold it shut, and there's a comfortable rolled leather handle to carry it all.

Look at that cute thing. That is a totally legitimate set of tiny, real tools. I bet I hear the squeals of delight all the way at my house when she opens this up. When we receive our exchange gifts, we're supposed to post pictures of them on the collectors forum so everyone can see what we got. I know it's prideful, but I'm really looking forward to reading what everyone thinks of my handsewn coveralls and tool kit.

I wonder what my gifter will send me?