Wednesday, 14 September 2016

A Plain Empire Petticoat

I’ve been meaning to make an early 19th century petticoat for some time, and now I finally have! It’s a plain, unadorned petticoat held up with shoulder straps, simple but serviceable. I mean to primarily wear it with my heavily pieced lower class dress.

Now, it took some courage for me to post this picture, 
as my heavy upper arms are a sore spot with me. Be kind.

The petticoat is made from bleached linen, a bit on the coarse side, and a bit too loosely woven to be perfectly period, but it’s what I had in my stash. I didn’t have very much of it, so the petticoat ended up slightly shorter than I’d have wished, but still within what’s acceptable for the period, and it does the job. I made it with the measure and cut method, as it’s so simple it doesn’t require an actual pattern. The front is cut as a shaped panel to fit the raised waist from side to side and widens towards the hem.

The back is cut in two straight panels with a seam down the back. It would have been more period to have the back cut in one, with a slit cut in the fabric for the back opening, but I had to piece the back to make it wide enough. 

I used the books Kvinnligt Mode Under Två Sekel by Britta Hammar and Pernilla Rasmussen and Skräddaren, Sömmerskan och Modet by Pernilla Rasmussen to decide what stitches to use, as they describe several Swedish extant garments and seam methods in great detail. The skirt is stitched together with running stitches and a back stitch every inch or so. The seam allowances are folded over and stitched to the joining seam, as seen in several extant dresses in these books. As I didn’t want to lose any more skirt length than necessary, I decided to use the selvedge of the fabric for this. The selvedge sticks out a little bit, compensating for the narrow hem I had to fold back, and hemstitched to it. The selvedge is then folded down on the inside and hemstitched in place. It gives a very neat look, almost like a woven tape being used. There are examples of cut off selvedges being used to hem skirts among the lower sorts on the Swedish countryside though, so it’s not completely taken from my own head.

I folded the upper part of the skirt down about a centimetre, and made two rows of gathering stitches in the back. I then pinned the skirt to a waistband (a straight piece of linen folded in half), putting a pleat in each side to give room for the hips, and drawing up the gathering threads to make shallow cartridge pleats. Skirt and waistband where then whip stitched together. I finished the waistband with running stitches along the upper edge. The waistband is almost on the wide side, but that was a conscious choice to add that extra little bit of length.

For shoulder straps I cut two straight pieces of linen, folded them in half and sewed a row of running stitches along each side. I pinned them in place, tried the petticoat over the proper underpinnings, and adjusted them until I was happy with the fit. After taking it off, I made sure both sides matched, and stitched the shoulder straps to the inside of the waistband.

For closure I decided on ties. I had cotton tape at home, so that is what I used. Silly enough, the waistband turned out too large (the result of me being lazy and not putting on the stays before measuring for it), and I didn’t feel like unpicking it, so I made an eyelet for one of the ties to go through, and I can let the ties wrap around to tie in front instead, making the petticoat adjustable in size. A dress in Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradfield has that feature, so I decided it was acceptable.

In the pictures I have tied the tapes under the petticoat, but if I put the tape through the eyelet from the inside and out I could tie the tapes on the outside instead. 
I'm wearing the petticoat over a linen shift and 1810's style stays.

So, while it’s no fancy sewing, at least it’s historical. I’m back, people!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Faux Book Covers

This year I have been looking at ways to make our home wizardy for the party without having to remove too much of the Muggle things. The row of faux book spines is one example of this, but I made these faux book covers before them, but fore some reason didn't get round to blogging about them until now. 

They are mostly made from old cartons that originally contained pasta, corn flakes and the like, using scrapbooking paper and in some cases fabric to cover them. A few are made over from old book covers – that’s where I started out and went over to empty cartons once I didn’t have any more rubbish books (yes, they really were rubbish) to use. 

For some of the titles I copied straight from the Harry Potter books (like Enchantment in Baking and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), and for the rest (Dazzling Deserts by I. Bakewell, Cooking up Magic, and Household Potions by Aurelia Haze) I made the titles up myself. It looks more real and believable if you have a mix of things you know from the books and things that aren’t mentioned there, but fit in with the culture. From Crumb to Cake has the title embroidered in imitation silver thread, but the rest are written with pen, paint or even stamped on – that was before I had confidence enough to trust to my own writing skills.

These books are made to look good even when seen from the side, and they are a great way to hide my Muggle cookbooks; just put a faux cover around one or several cookbooks and they're hidden with very little effort. Fantastic Beasts only have a proper cover on one side though - it’s made more in the fashion of the faux book spines mentioned above, and the side that does not have a cover has holes punched in it, so it can be attached to the row of faux book spines but still look good from the side, if I want to put them in a more open place in future.

They also store easily, fitting nicely one inside another.

Again I styled the shelves for the pictures, and everything might be arranged a bit differently at the actual party. Pictures of that will come after Halloween.

Any of you working on Halloween stuff yet, and if so, what are you making?

Friday, 2 September 2016

A Row of Faux Wizarding Books

Since last year we’ve added a bookcase to our kitchen, and of course I want it looking magical for the annual Halloween party. I decided I wanted one of the shelves covered with wizarding books, or at least looking like it was. I made a number of false book spines to give the illusion of a row of books.

 The faux books also hides the bins containing the children’s craft supplies that sits there, and I won't have to shove them in a cupboard for the party.

I made the “book spines” from empty kitchen towel rolls and scrapbooking paper, on which I wrote the titles, by hand, looking at different fonts found on Pinterest for inspiration. For some I used gold or silver pen, on others I used coloured ones. More than one paper was used on some books to create different looks.

I glued on pieces of ribbon on the back of some of the spines, for bookmarks. I had a silver tassel that I made for last year’s party, but as it didn’t look good on the potions bottle I intended it for, I used this for another bookmark.

I made the titles up myself, trying to make them fit into the magical world, and matching our real life situation and interests, so there are books on housekeeping, child care, textile crafts and gaming.
Left to right the titles are:
A Magical Beginning: Raising Young Wizards
Beguiling Gardening by B. Green
A Magical Home in a Muggle House
Traditional Household Spells
Magical Housekeeping, Volumes I-III
Three’s a Charm
Mrs Crawley’s Guide to Household Pests (the previously unpublished work that a certain Lockhart stole and put his own name on – at least that’s my story behind this book)
Muggle Gaming for Wizards
Charmed Games by P. Cooper
Knitting by Magic by Edyth Stitch
Sewing Spells
Robes from Rags
Enchanting Embroidery

 I tried my best to make the books as diverse in style as real books can be, but as they all came from the same mind and hand, those who know me well instantly recognise my style. I drew some “publisher logos” at the bottom of some of the spines, to make them more real looking.

 After all the spines were finished, I punched holes at the sides of them at top and bottom, and tied them together. Now I can easily shift them around or add more “books” some other year if I want to. Connecting them with brads might have been simpler, but this is still a work-from-stash-year, and while I don’t have brads I do have all kinds of string, yarn and thread. I can upgrade in the future.

With regular intervals I’ve glued on pieces of carton to a book spine, so that I can push it in between the craft supply tubs and prevent the “books” from falling off the shelf. Again, by rearranging the spines, I can fit them around other things in future.

They will store pretty easily too – I can just roll them up and put them in a box with all the other Wizarding party decorations.

All in all, I’m quite pleased with how these came out. A couple of the first ones I made are no more than tolerable, but half hidden while lined up with all the others, they look OK. A couple of them I’m very happy with indeed.

Now, I did style the other shelves for the pictures as well, it just looked too weird with all the Muggle stuff that're normally on them. That was quickly done, as we have old, old-looking and/or nerdy things all over the house.

I’ve made other books as well, functioning somewhat differently. I will post those later, even if I started making them first.

If you would make up a wizarding book title based on your own personality and interests, what would it be?

Saturday, 27 August 2016

A Simple Vase for Toddler Picked Flowers

Here’s a little hack for anyone who may receive very short-stemmed flowers from the toddlers in their life.

Take an old spice jar (preferably one with a nice shape), wash it and remove the label and glue. Save the perforated inner lid. When you receive flowers from little children, fill the jar with water, pop the perforated lid on, and put the flowers into the holes – that will prevent them from slipping into the water, and will keep things looking neat and pretty. 

 Before I thought of this I used to balance flowers I got from my children on the edge of a small vase, or fill a bottle cap with water for the really short-stemmed ones, with varying success – what do you do?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

These past weeks have been tough (yesterday was one month since our loss), and only in the last few days have I even got back to doing some kind of sewing, however simple. (Meanwhile, the boys are happy with the curtains I made for their room, and the decorative pillow cases I made for our bed look very nice. It’s good to sew again.) I know there has been lots of Harry Potter related posts lately, but really, except for feverishly organising my house, that’s been pretty much all I’ve felt up to. Of course, Halloween is creeping up on us, so that is another reason. Bear with me, I’ll get back to historical sewing eventually.

As I was going through my stuff, organising and purging, I came upon a tiny book, you know the kind you’ll be given as a present, filled with quotes on certain topics, which you end up never reading after that first time. Well, as this one had been in a box for five years or so, I saw no reason to hold on to it as it was, but thought the cover might be of some use for my annual Halloween party. Just a note to all the book lovers out there: this was a contemporary book with thousands of exact copies, it was never a great contribution to the world and won’t be missed. I’d never destroy a book of value.
It was clear that I would re-cover the book, and that the pages wouldn’t be needed. I carefully cut them out, then looked for a suitable paper for the book I had in mind among my scrapbooking supplies, and came up with one that almost had the look of cracked leather. Perfect. 

Unfortunately I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture, but you can clearly see on this look at the inside that the book has a new cover. I messed up a bit, and the corners ended up too short; however, I saved that situation later. 

I had decided on a title early on: Tinctures: The Tiny Tome. I messed up again when writing the title, and I used a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c’. That’s what happens when English is not your primary language, you work on things that require thinking too late at night and don’t double check the spelling. Ah well, maybe the book was produced by a foreign publisher? I pencilled the title and frame first, then filled them in with gold pen. After the ink had dried, I traced the title and frame with a knitting needle, to make shallow indentations which made it feel more like a real book. 

I was very happy with the result, but then I started thinking… Instead of only using this as a prop, what if I actually made it into a real book – a guestbook? I like the idea of a tiny guestbook, as I never know what to write in the full sized ones. 
I cut out pages from tea dyed printing paper. One paper gave ten pieces, twenty pages when folded in half. I used three sheets of paper, as sixty pages sounded like a good number. 

The different sheets had slightly different shades, as I didn’t time how long each one was in the tea. To avoid this being too obvious, and giving a more natural look to the pages, I mixed them up.
I organised the folded-in-half pages in groups of five, then I made holes in them in preparation for sewing them together.

Sewing book pages together is really very fun to do. My husband (who is interested in bookbinding) and I agreed that someday we’d like to take a class to learn it properly. As I’m not a pro at this, I’ll refer you to the blog post from where I learned how to do it, by Making My Rent. I managed to pull too sharply at the thread when attaching the second group of pages, and broke them. Boo. Fifty pages seemed too few, didn’t fill the book up enough at all, so I decided to make new ones. Rather than having half a sheet of paper left, I used a full one, and ended up with a total of seventy pages. Much better.

The rest of the sewing went smoothly, and the result looked rather neat. “Too bad no one will see it”, was hubby’s reaction, but that’s what blogs are for.

I sort of followed the steps of the tutorial, gluing the spine, gluing on thin fabric – I didn’t have the proper material (scrim?) for this, so had to pick something from the fabric stash. And here’s another of those moments when you’re glad you have a blog – doesn’t the stars seem like a typically wizardy thing to have? It will never show, but I’m sort of pleased they’re there. 

I glued on a narrow satin ribbon that would be the bookmarker, and then a wider satin ribbon as headbands.

I glued in the pages, attached the endpapers covering the insides of the book and let the book dry under a heavy cookbook. This is where I saved the mistake I made earlier, by gluing the papers rather closer to the edges than I would otherwise have done. I trimmed the endpapers a bit, and that was that! 

A small book, decoration and guestbook in one, perfect for my annual Harry Potter inspired Halloween party. My kids are looking forward to draw in it, for of course children will be as welcome to sign it as adults.

What do you think of guestbooks, love them or hate them?

Thursday, 11 August 2016

How to Remove Glue from Jars

So this is a bit different from my usual posts, but it’s too good a hack not to share. Who of you ever re-purposed a jar, bottle or tub, but was annoyed that the glue from the labels never came off? I certainly have, but then I found a good way to remove stubborn glue by The Creek Line House, using only baking soda and cooking oil, and it works beautifully. A bonus for it being non toxic.

Here’s what you do.
First the labels must be removed from the containers. Soaking in hot water and possibly a bit of dish soap does the trick, sometimes with a bit of scrubbing. More often than not, a lot of glue is left.

Then you mix a little cooking oil (use whatever you have at home) with baking soda, to make a paste. 

As long as it will stay put, even a slightly runny paste works well. 

Dab the paste onto the glue on the containers and let it sit for a few minutes or so. 

Scrub! I prefer to use my fingers, but for really stubborn glue maybe a sponge could come in handy. In most cases the glue comes off quite easily.

When all the glue seems to be removed, wash the containers, by hand or in the dishwasher. You’ll then have completely clean containers without disfiguring glue residues. 

I have done this with so many jars, with different kinds of glue, and so far this has worked on everything. I tried it on a plastic tub, and it got light scratch marks from the baking soda, that acts like an abrasive. Nothing too horrid but I’d better mention it. 

Do you have any must-know cleaning hacks? Please share, I'm trying to improve and simplify my home making!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings – and Magic

For this coming Halloween party I wanted to add some funny-shaped parcels to our decorations, you know, the kind that are wrapped in brown paper with strings round them, with old fashioned and/or wizardy labels attached, dropped off in a corner as if you hadn't had the time to put your shopping away before company arrived. Everything I used was craft materials or things to be recycled that I already had at home.

I wanted the parcels to be really light, both for storage purposes and the fact that it will make it lots easier to make them “levitate” or so, should I want that sometime. I used a variety of re-purposed cartons and empty cardboard tubes, and wherever needed I cut them to shape, added bottoms or tops, and stuffed them with crumpled up newspaper so they wouldn’t collapse under lighter pressure. For wrapping I picked brown paper in different shades and textures, to make it more organic and realistic, and I avoided using ordinary tape wherever it might show on the outside. I thought it more likely that grown wizards would use magic to wrap parcels, and a light Sticking Charm to hold them together. Sure there is supposed to be Spellotape available, but what adult and reasonably competent witch or wizard would bother with that when there’s an alternative?

For two of the parcels I used a large Toblerone carton cut in half as base. I closed the ends with taped on “lids” made from milk carton. One of the halves was stuffed full of newspaper so it looked quite fat, the other one I folded and shaped to look decidedly more skinny, made “lids” to emphasise the shape and only put a tiny bit of newspaper in the middle. 

One of them got a label I also used for some of the potion’s ingredients I made last year, based on a chain of apothecaries mentioned in The Half Blood Prince. I also added a tag with a serial number and wrote our last name on it, as if I had went in to order something, and came back later to pick up my purchase, ready packed.

For the other I made a string from green and purple linen thread, and glued on a label in the same colours. The label was all purple to start with, with an embossed pattern. I just filled this in with glittery green pen, and added a couple of letters. I then cut out a piece of green cardstock slightly larger than the purple in size so it made a narrow frame, and glued them together with the string in between.

For the bottle shaped parcel I used an assortment of cardboard tubes that previously held plastic foil and other kitchen items (I always save cardboard tubes, and they always prove useful), an empty cardboard baking powder jar, a short cardboard tube that used to hold crochet thread and a piece of carton, and made a crude bottle shape from them. It didn’t look too pretty as was, but that didn’t bother me, as no one would see it when wrapped anyway. 

Once that was done and a string tied round it, the would-be bottle looked really realistic. I added a label from The Leaky Cauldron – they have lovely non-alcoholic beverages there as well, at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I found the label on-line.

This one was just an empty toilet roll that I cut open and rolled tighter to make it less obviously toilet roll-y. I wrapped it in tea dyed printing paper - I have several tea dyed papers ready to be used for different projects. I found a picture of a weird looking chap in Ca 1830s clothes that I cut out of a magazine years ago when that was my main source of images (meanwhile, I love the treasure trove that is found on the internet), and by cutting down his top hat to be a pointy wizard’s hat, and adding gold accents to the hat and coat, he looked…. Well, he looked a bit like a prat. A wizard prat, but a prat nonetheless, so Prat & Co became the name of the shop. I giggled over that a bit. I made a string for carrying out of some dark brown, really unevenly spun linen thread I was given once.

Here I used a cut down milk carton for the base, and it was sturdy enough to hold up without the help of crumbled up newspaper. I added a label I got of the Internet, and a narrow satin ribbon (it matched the label nicely and I had just enough of it to work) for carrying. In a family like ours, of course you’d have purchased something at a bookshop.

I’m not quite sure what’s supposed to be in all of the parcels, but they do look nice, I think. Put in a wobbly, lopsided pile I think they’ll make a great decoration for our wizarding party. But I might need some more parcels, bigger or square ones to form a more solid base for that to work really well. These will look good as accents.

With different labels, parcels like these might also make nice Christmas decorations. What do you think about them?