Thursday, 28 January 2016

Medieval Winter

Last week we had cold and snow all over Sweden, even here in the south, where winter more often than not mean a damp and chilly wind that quickly seeps into your very bones in a way that dry, frozen cold don’t. It was perfect weather for taking pictures of your historical winter clothes, if you had them. I didn’t, but I never got good pictures of the green kyrtilI made for Tobias a few years ago. 

When he got dressed our four year old said he wanted clothes like that too when we went out. I hadn’t planned for that, not wanting to force my hobby on him more than necessary, but I’m not one to say no when he requests it himself. 


Wearing two wool kyrtils, a buttoned wool hood, woollen nalbound socks and mittens (really little brother’s socks) he was ready to face winter with his dad. 


 We don’t have all that much in the way of medieval looking nature where we live, so we had to make do with what little there is: a small copse and a corner of the playground.


Tobias commented that there were a lot of green in their clothes - and there is too much, really. The child’s kyrtil is made from the leftover fabric from his hose, and that his buttoned kyrtil is also green is just bad luck. He wore two kyrtils, a pair of hose with nalbound socks over them, a hood and a cap, all in wool. A belt, purse and shoes were the finishing touches.


It’s interesting how clothes you were very proud of when you made them looks a bit meh a few years later, when you’ve deepened your knowledge and raised your own standards. I’d really want to make Tobias a whole new wardrobe, but time and money is a factor as always, so it will have to happen little by little. None of it is bad; I just have higher demands on our stuff now, and likely will have again in a few years. It's the good and bad of this hobby.
 

 After a quick photoshoot and some sledding for the children, we went home. 

 
The snow is gone now, and today it almost feels like spring, even if that is still several weeks away. Hopefully we’ll be able to attend a weekend event or two this summer. We’d also love to go to the 25 year anniversary of Middelaldercentret, so fingers crossed that it works out!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Wool Skirt Makeover

Way back in 2009 I made a wool skirt that have seen a lot of use during the winters:


Since I had children though, it hasn’t fitted very well. It was made to fit snugly round the hips, but pregnancy and childbirth can cause big changes to one’s figure. The skirt was now too narrow over the hips, and kept riding up, which also made it shorter than I appreciate. As I still like the skirt, and want it to look nice on my present figure, I gave it a makeover.


The original skirt had an 8 centimetre deep hem. I let this down, and faced it with some grey bias tape I’d had in my stash for ever.


I cut the top of the fitted portion, and piped it with the grey band I’d cut off. Instead of the old and broken zip, I put in three buttons, also from my stash.


A small makeover, and now I’m happy with the skirt again.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

18th/19th Century Stockings

In the winter of 2008/09 I began knitting a pair of plain Ca 18th century wool stockings, using the tutorial on Mara Riley’s page. Progress was pretty good, until I ran out of yarn just after I had made the heels. I had got this yarn for free, and it wasn’t available in the shops. Now, I did have an in-progress nalbinding project where I had used this yarn, so I set out to unpick it. Those of you who ever unpicked nalbinding knows how much time that takes, so when I had enough to keep knitting, I was rather fed up with the whole thing. I put the almost finished stockings away, and though I looked at them once a year or so, I never quite felt like picking up the work again until a couple of weeks ago. I knitted a lot over a few days, and they were finally done.


The yarn is a two ply (lace weight) natural grey wool, knitted on 2 mm (UK 14/US 0) double ended needles. The gauge is ten stitches per inch. If it's any help, the pair weighed 136 grams when finished.


They are not the prettiest stockings seen – I wasn’t very good at knitting when I started out, so the tension between needles differed too much.  Still, a finished project is always nice, and not many will look at my legs up close – yay for long skirts! I took careful notes throughout the knitting process, and have become a better knitter, so hopefully the next pair (whenever I get round to them) will look better.

  
I feel mortified when looking at the stockings laid flat – my stocky legs and heavy ankles have been a sore spot with me since I was in my teens. At the same time I feel guilty for feeling like that – my legs serve their primary function well, which naturally is more important than how they look. Also, the uneven knitting is seen more clearly this way.


This will be my first challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly 2016.

The Challenge: #1 – Procrastination

Material: 2 ply (lace weight) wool yarn.

Pattern: Based on the tutorial on the Mara Riley page.

Year: According to the Mara Riley webpage, 17th/18th century. Mine will likely be worn mostly for early 19th, they seem to be close enough to Swedish lower class stockings of that period.

Notions: None.

How historically accurate is it? The techniques and material are all right, but execution is not too nice. I won’t rank it higher than tolerable because of that.

Hours to complete: No idea.

First worn: For the pictures.

Total cost: Nothing at this time, as I got the yarn for free.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

A Peter Pan Costume

My Eldest just turned four. Before I had children I never really considered how important birthdays are to the parents, but now I couldn’t help but reflect on what have happened these four years, how sweet and adorable he was as a baby and toddler, and what a special little person he is today. I wonder what kind of man he will grow up to be, and hope I can guide and inspire him to always strive to be his best self.

Last week he had his first ever birthday party for others than family members, and a handful of children were invited. Having seen it on Peppa Pig (a huge favourite with both boys at the moment), he wanted a fancy dress party. He wished to dress as Peter Pan, and who am I to refuse a request on a costume?


I wanted to work from my stash, but had very little green fabric there. After considering for a bit I realised I had a green worn out knit top that had seen a lot of wear the past four years, as it provided easy access for breastfeeding babies.


I cut off the sleeves and turned them into trouser legs, with a gusset between them. In the end they reminded me a little of the Thorsbjerg trousers, but without feet. 

 
They are held up by an elastic at the waist.


For the tunic and cap I recycled an old cotton blend half circle skirt. The whole outfit was made with the measure-and-cut method, using one of Eldest’s t-shirts as a cutting guide for the tunic. As my sewing machine seem to have given up on life, I had to stitch the cap and tunic by hand, something I've been trying to stop doing, except with historical clothing. 

The cap is self-fabric lined for a bit of body. It has a “feather” made from some polyester-y fabric scraps, remains from when I made cushion covers a few years back. It’s stiffened with a piece of zip tie, and the edges of the two layers of fabric was then molten together over a candle. It makes a much more play friendly and endurable feather than a real one would have been, plus I already had the materials for it. The cap sits so well on the head that my boy can hold his head upside down without it falling off.


The tunic is cut on the bias, with pointed edges on both hem and sleeves. The collar is pretty standard, being made from two layers of fabric, and then top stitched. 


All the edges of the tunic were faced with narrow self-fabric bias tape, and all seam allowances folded in on themselves and neatly whip stitched.


When the costume was finished and it was time to try it on, Eldest said that he needed a belt, like Peter Pan has. I didn’t have one short enough for him, but a thin braided belt wrapped twice around his waist worked well. For the pictures he also wore his medieval shoes – they are already on the small side, he’ll need new ones next year. The costume on the other hand is a bit too large, so he can use it for a long time.


He was really happy with how the costume came out (though pretending to be angry in the above picture), and I couldn’t have been given greater praise than his happy and excited face when he tried it on.

Friday, 4 December 2015

A Working Class Empire Dress

Before last week, I’d never made an Empire/Regency dress. Imagine that. I love the period, but for some reason I felt intimidated by them, which is funny, as I’ve made lots of far more advanced and complicated things. Mind, I have made a shortgown, which is basically the same thing, only, well, shorter. But I’m rambling.

Picture by Pernilla Leijonhufvud

Recently I was invited to attend a small event at a local museum, and though I could have whipped up a petticoat to use with said shortgown, I really wanted a dress. I had a cotton fabric with an almost handwoven look to it that I wanted to use. That would work well, as I wanted to portray the housekeeper of the middle class house we were to be in. The stripes reminded me of the ones in ordinary Swedish women's extant dresses from the period. They were quite often made from linen/wool, but cotton is also represented.

Just two problems: the fabric only measured 150x210 cm, and I only had one week in which to make the dress. That’s one week where cutting, fitting and sewing had to be completed around all the things stay at home parents of little children do.


I used the pattern I drafted for the shortgown as a starting point, but changed it into a drop front. And then it was the cutting. I only had two rather short skirt lengths of fabric, and both bodice and sleeves had to come from the two pieces on either side of the shaped front skirt panel. As it is cold this time of year, I wanted long sleeves, or things would have been much easier. This is indeed a little sister of The Insanely Pieced Dress I made a few years ago:

The bodice back is made from two pieces, picture of that further down. The bodice fronts are made from 4 pieces each:


 The bodice “bib” is made from three pieces:

 
The sleeves are made from 4 and 6 pieces respectively, not counting the bias strips at the wrists:


In the end these are all the scraps that were left:


Naturally I hand sewed the dress, using waxed linen thread (unbleached where it wouldn’t show, and brown for the rest) and period stitches. I lined the bodice and sleeves of the dress with unbleached linen. I might not have lined the sleeves had not all that piecing in them needed some protection from wear. 

I did my best to make the direction of the stripes follow the bodice as seen in extant dresses, and am rather happy with how it came out. 


The bib is pinned in place with reproduction brass pins. I put a pleat near each end of the bib to make it shape itself around the bust nicely. I still haven’t decided if I’ll stitch them down to make darts or leave them as they are.


The sleeves are pleated at the back of the shoulders, and are full enough at the wrists to pull on without any closures. A tuck at the elbow (seen above in the picture of the piecing) provide a little extra room for movement. The bias strips are decorative, but their primary function is adding well needed length. The sleeves are still slightly too short, but they will do.


The skirt is smooth in front, and the ties on the front part of the skirt runs through stitched bars by the back seams, and then ties in front, under the skirt.


The skirt is cartridge pleated in the back. A small pad prevents the skirt falling in at the small of my back, and also supports the ties of the skirt front and any apron that might be worn. I added tapes to the inside of the bodice back to tie in the front, as I didn’t think the bodice lining did a good enough job to keep the bodice back tight to the body. The fine white cotton ties are too fine for this kind of dress – it was still a rather fancy material here in Sweden – but it’s what I had at hand. At least they won’t show. 


I faced the skirt hem with a cotton/linen tape I wove a couple of years ago – facings are brilliant when you don’t really have any skirt length to sacrifice on hems, and it’s a period way to finish them. The tape too is pieced – it was initially used as 18th century style ties in a hobbit skirt, and are in four pieces.

 
In the end I managed to get the dress wearable in time for the event, if not completely finished, hence the mitts in some of the pictures - the sleeves were not yet hemmed. Now however, it’s all done!

 Picture by Pernilla Leijonhufvud

I really like how it came out, and enjoy wearing it. Now I'm really keen to make more Empire dresses. The pictures with the mitts are from the event at the museum, the ones without were taken today, when the weather finally allowed me to document the finished dress.

I haven’t had time to participate in the HSM for a while, but this dress fit the last challenge of the year.

The Challenge: # Re-Do

What Challange/s are you re-doing?: # 2 Blue (the dress has a lot of blue in it), # 3 Stashbusting (everything came from my stash), # 5 Practicality (it is very much a dress to work in), #6 Out of Your Comfort Zone (first time making a dress of this period), # 10 Sewing Secrets (lots of almost invisible piecing).

Fabric: Rather heavy weight, plain weave cotton and linen.

Pattern: My own.

Year: 1810’s.

Notions: Two kinds of linen thread, three kinds of cotton or cotton/linen tape, cotton batting.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty much. Materials, pattern and sewing is rather good.

Hours to complete: Difficult to say… estimated somewhere between 25-30 – the piecing took quite a bit of time to get nice.

First worn: For a small museum event last Saturday.

Total cost: Nothing at this time, as everything came from my stash. The main fabric and the brown linen sewing thread were originally a gift, the linen fabric was left over from a previous project, and two of the tapes were recycled from other clothes.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

A Harry Potter Halloween II: Other Decorations

So I had a little more to post about the Harry Potter party, but was a bit burned out on the whole thing. Now finally, here it is.

Potions and potion ingredients
It would be a sad magical home that did not have potions and ingredients for making them. I had a very limited budget for this party, so I couldn’t invest in bottles and jars in cool shapes, but had to use what could be found at home. Luckily it had been a while since I disposed of the glass recycling, so I could find quite a few acceptable (though not great) jars and bottles there.


I removed the labels from all my glass containers. I then designed new ones for them, using labels I found on the internet as a starting point, and edited them in Paint – basic as can be. 




Some of the names of apothecaries, potions and ingredients are found in the books or films, but some I made up. I tried to pick things that might reasonably be found in your ordinary wizarding home, so there was no Polyjuice Potion, Felix Felicis, Amortentia or similar to be found here. For volumes and weights I used the old imperial units, as wizards did not convert to the metric system when the rest of the UK began to do so. Also, I didn’t age the bottles as much as you often see done for Halloween, as I wanted them to look like they are in regular use; a bit stained and with torn labels, but not completely dusted over and covered in cobwebs.


As for the actual content of the jars and bottles, I used several things. I began collecting and drying plants in June or July. Some of them were historically thought to have magical or medicinal properties, and some have proven medicinal uses. That makes it extra fun. Others just looked so cool or weird, I just had to add them, either under their own, borrowed, or made up names. Some of them I later found listed among potion ingredients in the Harry Potter world. 


I also used shampoo, coloured water (in some cased thickened with potato starch), coloured sugar, and similar things to give different effects. For the more interesting jars I put in toy lizards, borrowed from my eldest son, real eggshells (left over from cooking) that I had dyed several times to give them an interesting pattern, and a dead beetle I found outside my house last summer. That last one is a bit creepy, but it did add to the look.
 

Plants
To decorate the windows I made some undefined kind of plants (not devil’s snare – that’s decidedly not a plant you want to have in your kitchen) using brown packing paper – left over pieces from making dress patterns - as a base. I wetted it, crunched it up a few times, then twisted it into shape, let it dry and painted it. Then I wrapped plastic vines (originally used to decorate for our wedding reception) round them, and tacked them to the walls and roof. I “planted” them in copper pots – every true Hufflepuff will know that both plants and copper is seen a lot in the Hufflepuff common room, so it’s a nice nod to ”my” house. Go Badgers! 


I also made a small hothouse under a glass dome. 

  
Improvised noticeboard
We hid our fridge and freezer behind drapes, as they just looked too Muggle to bear. They are suck typical places to stick notices to, but I stuck ads, coupons and the like – all with a mundane but magical theme – to a permanently closed door. These would-be cut-outs were a mix of me altering some picture or other, in a similar fashion to the labels above, and using pictures found online as they were. 


It looked nice enough, but I think I’ll eventually need to get a proper notice board – a pretty one.


Post Owl
Because naturally you just have to have one. I hope to find a really realistic one some time, but until then this one will do. I’d want a cage too. Ornamental cages seem to be a home decorating fashion right now, so I should hopefully be able to pick one up for next to nothing once the fad passes,
and people are sick of them cluttering up their storage.


I also put books, goblets, jars, cauldrons, quills and other odd stuff on top of the cupboards, for visual interest. Both me and hubby being nerds in several areas makes finding such items around the house a simple task.


And that was the last post on this subject, promise. At least for this year.