Monday, 28 September 2009

Broadcloth and Blindman's Buff

Last Saturday I went to the Salvation Army's charity shop, and that payed off. I found a dress, which will fit with a few alterations. The sleeves are very 40's, but the rest of the dress looks more like the 70's... Anyway, it's a nice dress made out of a very nice fabric (white with a woven-in pattern of flowers). Speaking of which, I also found a piece of wine-red broadcloth, 150*109 cm (60*43") for 50 SEK (£ 4.30)! Yeay! I have a couple of ideas as to what I'll use that for; either I'll use it to trim this years winter coat, or I'll use it for a flashy 14th century liripipe hood. I would like a nice hood, but I could use a winter coat more.

All to often my period sewing takes precedence over my present day sewing projects... As is seen by my fabric stash: all but two or three of the fabrics in this cabinet is appropriate for clothes from one historic era or other. I like the bottom shelf best, with nothing but woolen fabrics on it. I have a few contemporary textiles as well, but they couldn't fit in this cabinet...

Today I've made a pattern to the wedding dress from the toile. I've prepared a lot of piping, and now I have to clean the floor so I have a clean surface to work on while cutting out the fabric. As soon as that's done the fun begins. I have a feeling I'll have fun sewing the bodice of this dress.

I made cinnamon- and vanilla rolls today, and with a little luck I'll have some to put in the freezer (perhaps...). At the YSA Family Home Evening tonight we played blindman's buff, and it was the most violent rounds of that game I've ever experienced! People threw pillows and a mattress on the poor blindfolded one, rearranged the furniture to make it even more confusing, and, to make it harder for the ones who could see, we put out the lights. It was quite fun (at least when I didn't wear the blindfold), and very lucky no one got hurt. We finished with cinnamon rolls (second time for me this day) and milk for refreshments. A good ending to the day.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Thoughts in the Middle of the Night

I'm working tomorrow night, from 9 pm to 7 am, and so, I'm staying up real late tonight so I can sleep tomorrow, and then be able to stay awake all that night. I've had a movie night with some friends, to help with the staying awake thing, but they've all left now (it being a little past 1 am), and I'm thinking of ways to keep myself from falling asleep. I began watching The Fellowship of the Ring yesterday, so perhaps I'll finish it tonight... I made one of them silly tests on Facebook, to see what kind of LotR person I'd be, and from what that test said I'd be a hobbit. I could live with that: a nice hole, a tidy kitchen garden, plain though pretty clothes... a simple but peaceful life. I think I'd love that.

Back to the real world. I've applied for two jobs today, and at least one of them I would really like. I still haven't found a name for my cat. I've thought of several names, but none sounds natural. Perhaps he'll never get called anything but Kisse (it's sort of the Swedish version of Kitty).

I've now sewn about 4 meters of piping for the wedding dress (by hand, since I don't like how my sewing machine does it), not as much as I'd hoped to get done. I'll continue tomorrow, and when I get the energy for such boring work, I'll make the toile into a pattern for the dress. After that I can get started for real.

Ok, I give up... I'm really tired, so no more movies tonight. I'll just go to bed, and hope I'll manage tomorrow night. If I'm lucky, and everything is quiet, I might be able to sleep for an hour or so. If I bring a sewing project or something it might keep me from dozing off.

So that's an end to this pointless post.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Curious Cat

Today I bought a kitten, 18 weeks old, and he's darling. It's an ordinary housecat, just what I wanted. He's very social and curious, he follows me everywhere, and I can't sit down but he curls up in my lap, purrs, and takes a nap. I wonder how I'm supposed to sew, when he's lying there....

I didn't get any sewing done last night, my head really hurt. I've been cleaning the apartment again today (autumn cleaning - takes forever), and then there was institute, so I didn't get too much work done on the piping this night either. The cat being very curious didn't help :) I must find a name for him, I can't just call him "the cat".

I've done some research as to what company makes the best (and preferably affordable) 14th century shoes, and I think I will buy them from Plantagenet's in the UK. It's a lot of money for me right now, £130 for a pair of shoes, but from what I hear they last for ages, and they're made to measure. I'd better start saving....

Monday, 21 September 2009

Headache and Medieval Shoes

Today I haven't sewn anything so far, because I've had other things to do (like laundry, cleaning the bathroom floor, a lot of boring paperwork , applying for a job, etc.), and now I don't really feel like it because I have a headache. I have that quite often, but most of the time I can function normally anyway. Not so today! My head feels heavy and fuzzy, and the painkillers won't help. It's so bad I won't go to the YSA Home Evening tonight. On the good side; I got asked to work three evenings early in October. Yeay!

Two days ago (Saturday) I tried the mock-up of the wedding dress on my friend, and after a few alterations it fit perfectly! The mock-up fabric is white, so she got a good idea of what the finished dress will look like. She was very pleased. So, unless I really mess things up, that dress might well be the prettiest thing I've ever made. The bodice-seams will be piped, so if I find some energy, that's what I'll do tonight, prepare the piping.

My historical interest is turning more and more to the 14th century now. I so want to buy a new pair of shoes for that era, since the ones I made a couple of years ago is in really bad shape. Perhaps I'll save them in case I want to do a beggar-impression sometime :)

I could make myself another pair, but I'm not good at making shoes, and I don't like making them, it bores me to death. I'll need to buy myself a pair of pattens as well, to save the shoes as much wear as possible. Period shoes are expensive! I tried to make myself a pair of pattens some years ago, but I'm not good working with knives and wood either, so it ended with the emergency room and three stitches.... I've let them be since.

Tomorrow I'm going to look at a kitten I'm thinking of buying, and I'm very nervous. Every time I'm going to buy something expensive (like a computer or bike), or important in some other way (like a small animal to be responsible for), or make an important decision I get nervous and wondering if it is a good idea. But afterwards I'm usually satisfied with it, and I think I will be in this case. I have thought about it for a long time, and I could really use a little company.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Starching a Petticoat the 19th Century Way

A few days ago I mentioned that I was starching one of my some-ten-year-old mid-19th century petticoats the old fashioned way. I have now come home from my parents and can tell you how it went.

I started with washing and ironing it to take a "before" picture to compare with. It is a simple petticoat, gathered to a waistband, buttoned in the back, and with a single tuck at the bottom. I will make the hems deeper on any future petticoats, but all in all this one is tolerable. It's sewn with a back stitch at the seams, and the hem and tuck is sewn with a running stitch. In real life it should be worn with a number of additional petticoats for fullness, but I didn't want to wear them on this picture, since the whole point was to see what the starch could do. So it looks like a wet dishcloth on this picture.

I had read that both corn starch and potato starch were used in the period. Since corn was close to non-existing here in Sweden at the time, I used potato starch. So, from what I'd read, you should stir the starch in boiling water. What I forgot was what happens when you do that with potato starch.... it turns to jelly! Complete disaster!
I laughed about it, poured the horrid mess in cold water so as to be able to touch it and squeezed it to a jelly-mess. I then poured it through a sieve to get rid of the big lumps. I hoped that there would be enough starch left after I threw the jelly-lumps away.

I put the petticoat in the cloudy starch, soaked it and then wringed it, and hung it up to dry. It had a soapy feeling, and I did my best to hang it in such a way as to not let it stick together while drying. And then I went to my parent's for a week.

Today I came home, and ironed the petticoat. It is lightly starched, so it's not a complete disaster after all. Still I wouldn't mind to have it starched a bit harder. Anyway, it is crisp and has a sort of shiny finish to it, which I imagine will make it harder for dirt to get a good hold. It actually looks very nice.

So this is the "after" picture. Next time I'll use cold water, and see if that makes a stronger starch. At least it won't leave a sink of jelly for me to get rid of.

I'm so far managing to keep my urge to make a 14th century kirtle at bay. My corded petti is getting more and more... corded. I'm now working on the 24th row of cording. And tomorrow (hopefully) I'll be able to start on my friends wedding dress.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

I'm soon lost in the 14th century...again

I have a problem; I can't possibly stay interested in one period to long, not because I get tired of it as such, but because there's too many interesting periods! Right now I fell that the 14th century or maybe the viking age is creeping nearer, which is most inconvenient since I have that wedding dress to make. I would like to make a nice woolen cotte or kirtle (or kjortel as it's called here in Sweden). But alas, that will have to wait... Anyway, I post an old picture of me in 14th century clothes. I lent the hood to one of my brothers a few years ago, and haven't seen it since... I think I'll have to make myself a new (and more accurate) one sometime.

Meanwhile, I'm still at my parent's, and amongst other things working on the corded petticoat. I have finished the first group of seven cords, and I'll start on the second tonight. I still like the work, and I'm not tired of it, I just wish there was more time for all the other projects I want to start on (and in some cases finish). It would be good if I could make myself a new winter coat, since my old ones are all but threadbare... and I'd like to have my second try on St Birgittas coif finished.... and my needle bound socks... and I could use another pair of knee high hose... and I could really need some woolen skirts for everyday and Sunday-wear.
This week I've also been working in my parents garden. They cut down a tree that was dangerously close to the house last week, and gave the wood to a friend. After he removed it, all the branches and foliage was left on the lawn, and so I've been working on stacking it in a pile at the bottom of the garden, to be burnt. It's fun, but hard work, many of the branches are a good deal longer than me. But I like to work outside, and would like a tiny farm of my own sometime.
It's so good to be a my parent's, to have company available whenever I want it. To just talk to Mum as soon as I have a thought, to talk to Dad and my brother in the evenings, and not have to eat alone is great, as is playing and cuddling with my youngest siblings. At my place there's just me and the dust bunnies.... it's all right most of the time, but really, humans are supposed to live in families, and I feel lonely sometimes. I'm thinking of getting a cat or two for company.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Update on the Corded Petticoat...and other things

Yesterday I drafted the pattern for the wedding dress I'm making. I think it will work all right, but I haven't had the opportunity to try it on the bride-to-be yet, so some changes might be necessary. It's on hold for a few days, since I'm at my parents again.

This is a detail of how my corded petticoat looked yesterday at noon, I've since added one more cord. The light is shining through it, so you can see the cords clearly. I tried it on (but since it doesn't have a waistband yet, I tucked it into a belt) and put another petticoat over it, and it worked quite well, with just 18 cords. It made a noticeable difference to how that petticoat looks without the corded petti. Wonder how it will look when I've corded the whole thing? I decided to have only 15 rows of cord at the bottom, and then several groups of seven rows each, and then some groups with three rows each. How many groups I'll do remains to be seen.

Speaking of that other petticoat... I made it a long time ago, and it could really use some starch. I've never tried to starch anything the old-fashioned way before, so I read up on the matter on the Sewing Academy. I started yesterday, so I'll update when I get back home.

One of my friends married this week, and had her wedding-reception last night. It was very nice, and so fun to dance (though there was way to little dancing for my taste - only five or so songs). The bride looked beautiful, and both she and her husband beamed.

On the way home my dad and I had a sort of adventure; we saw an elk on the road, she ran in front of the car for quite a long way, just ten meters or so away. Dad thought there might be another one close by, so he drove real slow, and after a little while she was joined by her calf . Good thing the grown one was already on the road, and didn't walk out just in front of us... that would have been... rather less than good. As it was, it was fun to see them so close, in the wild I've only seen them in some distance before.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

19th century Nightgown

The autumn is officially here. It's not cold yet, but the leaves are turning yellow and the air is a bit sharp in the mornings. The rowanberries are glowing red, and there's a lot of them. I like this time of year.
I have a habit of sleeping with my window open as far into the autumn or winter as possible, but at this time of year an extra quilt is nice. Last night I was still a little cold and I dug out a 19th century-ish nightgown I made some ten years ago. The few times I've tried it, it's been very comfortable to sleep in, and it's so cosy to pull my feet up inside it. To bad you don't use them anymore... It's made of a cotton fabric, with hand made bobbin lace round collar and cuffs. All visible seams are hand-sewn. I'm thinking of making a new one, not being completely happy with this. Anyway, here's a picture of it, taken earlier this year. I was terrified all the time that I should drop the candle and set fire to the bed. The picture turned out nice though.

I'm making slow but steady progress on the corded petticoat. It will have to give way for a more important project though: I'm making a friends wedding dress. She's getting married early in November, and the fabric only just arrived. We haven't made the pattern yet either. So, I have much to do and less time to do it in...

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Musing and Sewing

While working on my corded petticoat today, I've been watching the TV-series "North and South", based on the novel by Elisabeth Gaskell (who also wrote "Wives and Daughters", "Cranford" and others), and I think I've realised why I usually like to portray an upper working-, or lower middle-class person when I make my period clothes. It's very simple: I can't portray a rich woman without the question "where did the money come from?" arising. Did it come from an inheritance, trade or manufacturing? No matter what the answer, the comfort and wealth of the person I portray probably came from the labour and suffering of other (underpaid, malnourished and overworked) people, and I will not appear to be the kind of person to condone that sort of thing. I want to be the kind of person that support myself (or is provided for by father or husband) with honest labour, in this time, and in any other. So most of the time when making historic clothes, I think of myself as a seamstress: I may be working hard, and can not afford the nice fabrics and trims, but I have the skill to make neat and well-fitting clothes all the same.

Anyway, I've been working on my corded petticoat. It's slow work, as I've said before. I use a running stitch, with an occasional backstitch for greater security. Eight rows of cording are finished, which make all of 2,3 centimeters, or a little more than 7/8" at the hem...this will take a while. From what I've read, it's more common for petticoats like this to have the cords woven into the fabric, but since I don't have a loom at home, I'll have to sew them in. This was also done, though perhaps not with such thin cords. I'll wear it under my dress and other petticoats, so no one will see it anyway...

Tomorrow is Sunday, which for me means going to church and no sewing. And on Monday, I'm working! I only got work for that one day, and perhaps another one later this month, but it's better than nothing. I count my blessings.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Working in the Garden

I started this post a couple of days ago, but I don´t want to re-write it, so most of this is from 1 September:

Today my mum and I have been working in the garden. My family have only lived here for less than two years, so the garden is still a work in progress. We moved three gooseberry-bushes from a very shadowy place to a more sunny one, we re-plantred phlox by the mossy old stone wall, and moved the hollyhock to a drier place, they having almost drowned this summer. It was very nice to be out in the country, and do some gardening. It makes me happy, to work in the soil, fetch water and other such things. It´s like getting in contact with another part of yourself. My ancestors have been farmers at least back to the 18th century, probably much longer, so I suppose it´s in my blood...

I have also washed a fabric today, that I bought a while ago, which is eventually going to be made into a 19th century dress. I haven´t decided on the decade yet, but somwhere between the 1830´s and 1860´s. I have to do some research as to what decade the fabric would be most suitable for. It´s not going to be a nice dress, but an every day lower middle-class dress. That is the class I usually like to portray when I do living history, no matter the period. It enables me to have somewhat fashionable clothes (though simple and modest), and still being able to do some work. Just sitting in a corner, doing embroidery and looking pretty is not really me.

That was the old post, this is written today:

My corded petticoat is coming together nicely, so far. I have finished the side-seams, and I am very happy with them, they are completely flat! I will have to do something to reinforce the openings in the sides, so they don´t tear when I put the petticoat on, or takes it of. I have
started with the cording, and so far I have made almost three rows. It takes a while, the cords only being 2 millimeters wide, and them being sewn in by hand. It´s nice work though. You don´t really have to think about it, so you can watch a movie or have a conversation at the same time. You also see that you get some result from the work, with every new row of cording being added. And, I can tell that this is going to work very well; after only three rows of cording, the hem of the fabric is already somewhat stiff. Now I have to figure out if I should just continue as I have done, all the way to lower hip-level, or if it is period correct to group the cording, to make a nice pettern. I have seen other re-enactors do this, but haven´t seen it in extant corded petticoats. I have read something about it though, somewhere... might have been the Sewing Academy...

Corded Petticoat, part one

I´ve been wanting to make an 1830´s dress since I first saw "Wives and Daughters" some eight or nine years ago, and was even more inspired when I saw "Cranford" last year (where some of the dresses from "Wives and Daughters" are re-used) but so far never got round to it. There are so many other things to do; school (though that´s no longer a problem), work (or looking for one), other sewing-, knitting-, scrapbooking-projects (major problem...), books that want to be read (another major problem) and trying to have a social life... But a couple of days ago, while reading about corded petticoats on the Sewing Academy-forum I decided it was time to get started.

I´ll have to make a corset suitable for the period, a new chemise, and some petticoats (tucked, I think... tucks are beautiful). I will also make a corded petticoat, partly because I want to see firsthand what it does to the shape of my skirts, partly because they where in use in the period, but mostly because they can be so pretty, and I want to make one! So I will start with that, the corded petticoat.

Having made that decision, yesterday I went to the Red-Cross charity shop and bought two identical sheets (old ones, with lace-insertions and monograms), because they are of a far better quality than most cotton fabrics nowadays. They are also a lot cheaper and you don´t have to shrink them before you start, and I wanted to start right away. Well, to be honest I bought three sheets, the third had such a pretty lace insertion... I´ll use the rest of it for my new chemise.

I cut the sheets to the length I wanted, two pieces to be sewn together. As I plan to fold the fabric and sandwich the cords between the layers, I made the pieces a lot longer than the finished petticoat will be. I´m not sure yet how many rows of cording I will have, so I took a bit more fabric than I might actually use (1.5 meters), just in case. The sheets have very nice selvages, so I decided to just whipstich them together, to make as smooth a seam as possible. If you do it properly, you can´t even feel the seam with your fingertips. The hope is that will make it easier to sew the cords in, with no seam allowenses being in the way. The seams are left open some 17 centimeters at the top, to enable me to put the petticoat on. Perhaps a centre back opening is more common for the period, but I rather like side-openings... makes it easier to wear the petticoat, should your weight change one way or the other.

I´ve gone home to visit my family for a few days, and so I haven´t had so much time to sew as I would at home. But I get to sew a lot more often than I get to visit my family, so never mind that. I got a couple of hours of sewing done before I went though, and an other couple of hours while watching TV with my dad and brother. So before I went to bed I had almost finished sewing the two panels together. Hopefully I´ll finish that today, and start with the cording.