Saturday, 31 October 2009

Halloween

Not much to tell, really. I went to a Halloween party last night, which was fun, but I'm coming down with a cold, so I was a bit tired. Most people had made a good job at finding/making costumes. You could meet Napoleon, a vampire and it's victim, a cat, a lumberjack, a couple of very different superheroes, Fred and Ginger long dead, Snow White, Tia Dalma (from Pirates of the Carribean) and a male fairy (not pretty, I can tell you...).

I went as a troll, which in Scandinavian folktales are not usually the big, hairy monsters most people think of. In the stories they can be ugly, and they can range in size from much smaller than humans, to giants. But most of the times they seem to be very close to human in appearance, sometimes more beautiful than any human (mostly the young females). They were believed to live their lives pretty close to the way humans did, with cooking, brewing ale, tending to animals, getting married, sewing (female trolls had a reputation of being extremely good at spinning and weaving). They usually lived in/under mountains, or under mounds, not in houses. They could be very friendly with humans, but could also be malicious. They were believed to steal human babies and leave their own young in the cribs instead (used as an explanation for deformed or mentally handicapped children), and they hated the sound of church bells. Steel was thought to protect against the trolls, so people often carried knives, and put nails or knives in babies swaddling.

Some people thought I was skogsrået, the Swedish word for a female creature, who guarded the forests. She was supposed to be very beautiful, capricious, and dangerous for men. It was believed that if they treated her respectfully, she would help humans find lost cattle, have good luck at hunting, etc. If they were disrespectful, she could be quite cruel, making people get lost, forget their wives or destroy the work they did in the woods. In some parts of Scandinavia she was thought to have the tail of a fox or a cow, and in some areas, her back was as hollow as rotten tree. I've never seen one, so I had to do the best I could ;)


Anyway, this is what I wore; a green wool tunic, really a child's long sleeved medieval cotte (worn by one of my sisters a few years ago), but it's wide enough for me to wear. Over that a wool-poly blend skirt, which I made as a "medieval" dress a long time ago, before I knew better. I cut the top portion of, hemmed it, added patches here and there, tore it in a couple of places, and frayed it a little. I sewed my tail to the back, so it looked like it was poked through a "tail-opening". I had a strip of leather wound round my waist, and added a pouch to carry my camera in (I didn't take a single picture...). Didn't get a good picture of the tail, sorry. You have to see my last post for that. The tail is made of fake suede, from an old project, and a bit of fox fur.


My hair was a tangled mess of frizzy curls (it took a long time and a lot of conditioner to wash it out today), and I wore a headband made from a flexible pine branch, complete with a nice, tight row of pine cones, to which I added a few other things, like rowan berries. To hold it all securely in place (silky, Scandinavian hair, remember?) I used a lot of hairspray, besides the hair pins. All in all, I think it turned out well.


The bodice of the wedding dress is coming along nicely, I just have to add sleeves and a zipper. Only, I can't do that till I've finished the skirt. I can't cut out the tulle for the sleeves 'till the skirt is cut out, since there's so little fabric, and I'll have to sew the bodice and skirt together before I sew in the zipper.... Meanwhile, here's a picture of how the back looks with the row of buttons. I would have liked the buttons a little smaller, but then it's not my dress.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Press is Building...

Lately I've had so much to do and think about that I've had no time to update my blog. The wedding dress is the thing that's taken most of my time of course. The wedding is a week from tomorrow, and the dress is to be finished a few days before that. Yesterday I lined the bodice, and today I've put in the buttons at the back. The dress will be closed by a zipper in the left side, so the buttons are purely ornamental, though I want them to look something like real buttoning. I don't just sew them on to the back of the dress, since that make them stand out in all possible angles, which don't look tidy at all. Instead I use the old method of carefully poking holes through the fabrics, pushing the shanks of the buttons through, then securing them with a ribbon running through all the buttons, and sewn to the inside of the dress. That makes them sit nice and tight, and very straight.



I am getting just a little stressed now... but so far I've never missed a deadline, and I really can't miss this one. My cat (named Lord Wellington by a friend) doesn't help, but he's much better at letting me be while sewing then he was.

On Saturday it's Halloween, but since my friends bridal shower is that night, we have a Halloween party on Friday instead, hosted by the brides soon to be cousins in law. It's a dress-up party (yeay!) and I've been preparing a costume for that. I had to make it very quickly, since I don't have much time. I will not tell what I'm going as though, I'll do that when I have pictures of it. Here's a teaser though.



For the rest, all is well. I've visited my family a couple of days this week, and celebrated four birthdays at once; my Dad's, one of my sister's, one of my brother's and my eldest niece's. Tomorrow and on Sunday I'm working. I haven't worked day-shifts for almost two months, so that'll be interesting.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Plans for a 1911 Dress

I got all the bodice pieces of the wedding dress sewn together, and the fitting went well. I'll have to take in two seams a little, but then the bodice will be perfect!

I've been planning to make a 1911 (or thereabouts) evening gown for years, and now the time might have come. I'm most likely going to a ball at New Years Eve, and I'm thinking of making the 1911 dress for that. I bought a cherry red/pink tabby weave silk when I first thought of making the dress, and it's been in my fabric stash ever since. The dress will be in the narrower, almost hobble skirt style, popular at the time. The plan is to make a rather plain dress out of the rosy silk, and sew a black, draped, beaded "tunic" over it. I will add some accents like velvet and maybe lace as well. A silk tulle is most period for the tunic, but it tears so easily (what with the weight of the beading and all), that I'm going to use chiffon instead. This is the drawing I made of what I want it to look like (I've been drawing a fair few versions of this dress over the years, but the one I made today is the one I like best):


Some details might change, but this is my plan so far: The greater part of the bodice will be in black velvet, creased to look like it's been wrapped around the body. It might or might not have hanging ends in the back. The slit in the skirt of the tunic will be edged with an embroidered organza ribbon I've got lying around (I will add a lot of beading to it), and the hem of the tunic will have a beaded fringe. The neckline of the tunic will be edged with that same beaded ribbon, and the sleeves will (perhaps) have a beaded fringe as well. The front I'm not sure of yet, perhaps a soft black tulle with woven in polka-dots I've had for years, mounted on another fabric, and then beaded.


This photo came out really blurry for some reason, but you can get an idea about the colours. The velvet is black, but looks blue in the picture (I will probably bye some new, really black velvet for this dress), and the rosy silk is darker in real life. I like how the dress will look dark, almost wine red, and then there's a really bright color at the hem, and peeking through the slit in the tunic. A bit like me; not to interesting at a first glance perhaps, but if you take the trouble to get to know me, I can actually be rather fun :)

The problem is, I also have a dark blue velvet that I could use instead of the rosy silk.... That would look something like this:



Dark blue and black seem to be a period combination.
This is a rather big project, for not only will I have to do the beading (which will take a long time), I also must make the appropriate underwear, especially a corset and a petticoat, or the look of the dress will be wrong.
But then I usually change my mind as to what style I want to wear to a ball a dozen times, before I even start making a dress, so I might be wearing something completely different in the end.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

First Day of Snow

First things first: it was snowing this morning! The air looked sort of fuzzy when I woke up, and when I looked closer, it was snowing! It stuck to the ground, but it didn't stay long, as it's a few degrees above freezing. So note to self: first snow of the season - 13 October.

I have worked so much the past two weeks, I've hardly had time to sew on the wedding dress. I wasn't working yesterday, so I did some sewing then. I had planned to do more, but I didn't feel well, and spent most of the day sleeping on the sofa, with the cat curled up close by. Still, all the front parts of the bodice is now piped and sewn together.


I did some sewing on my corded petticoat yesterday as well. I was tired, and didn't feel like the wedding dress was the right project for me right then, but the corded petti is a safe thing to work on when tired, not really a risk of getting it wrong. I've now finished the 26th row of cording. It was so fun to work on it, and I love the look of the pattern the rows of cords make. I really want to get that wedding dress finished, so I can work on my own projects again, with a good conscience.


Hopefully I can sew all the bodice pieces together, so that we can have a fitting later this week. Then there's the most difficult part on this dress: the tulle overlay of the skirt. I'm not kidding, it scares me. The hem of the dress need to be curved to look nice, but I'm using the embroidered edge of the fabric, so I just can't curve the hems on the tulle layer. Somehow, I'll have to make it work anyway.....

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Folk Costume Shift

I continue my present interest in my folk costume, so be patient. My interest will most certainly turn to something else in a little while. (That's my curse; I can never stick to one project for too long. My interest changes, but it always comes back again. So I finish most of my projects.... eventually.) Today I'll show you my shift, or särk in Swedish. This sleeveless kind is called, in the local dialect, hankasärk. I made it a while ago, and it's to be worn as the first layer of the folk costume. I will not post a picture of how it looks when I wear it, since it has a very low neckline.


It's made of a bleached, rather coarse linen, and is based on an extant example in the museum Kulturen in Lund. I found a very good description and pattern in the book Skånska Särkar (Scanian shifts) by Margareta Bergstrand. All the pieces are the same shape as the original, but scaled to my size, and the stitches are the same as in the original, sewn with waxed linen thread.


The shift comes down to about 8" from the floor. It is made out of three different kinds of rectangles: one for the "bodice" (with a hole cut out for the head), two small ones to form the sides, and three large ones that make up the skirt.


There's no shoulder seams, and the seams in the skirt are placed at the right side, off-center front and off-center back. Oh yeah, and there's the waistband. It's whip stitched to the pleated skirt, and the finished bodice is then whip stitched to it as well. The waistband has a line of back stitches sewn to it, for strength.

In the lower right hand corner of the bodice my initials are embroidered with red cotton yarn. The letters are based on ones from real shifts from my area. S is for Sarah (obviously), A is for my fathers first name, and D is for dotter, daughter. Sarah A.....s Dotter - Sarah A.....'s Daughter. That's how most people where called back then in Sweden, their own first name and then their fathers name, followed by Son or Dotter (yeah, son is the same in Swedish and English). They still have this practice in Iceland. So, that was today's history lesson.


I like this shift very much, and put in a good deal of research and work into it. Some people think I'm wasting my time, since it won't show once I have the rest of the costume on, but every layer adds to the right look of an outfit. As all who wear period clothes will know.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

A Long Post on Swedish Folk Costumes

The information in the first paragraph is no longer valid. (I've started a new blog in Swedish (Som När Det Begav Sig), for those who know how to read Swedish. It has pretty much the same content as this one, but I might explain about one of my pet projects a little better. The pet project is making a folk costume from the area in Sweden where I was born and grew up, and since there's a lot of costume-related words that have no English translation, it's easier to write and explain it there. The short version will be posted here as well.)

So today, I'll explain a little about Swedish folk costumes.

There's no such thing as an original "uniform Swedish folk costume". The costumes were only worn by the people in the countryside, farmers, their families and servants, and it changed and developed over hundreds of years, and look very different in different parts of Sweden. Some areas have no documented folk costumes at all. Many factors contributed to make the local costumes look the way they did, such as when the areas had it's times of economic affluence or poverty, what access to imported fabrics they had, the local ideas of propriety and fashion and so on. In some areas the late 18th century and early 19th century is clearly recognised in the costumes. In other areas you can trace parts of the costumes to the 16th and 17th centuries, or even to the middle ages. When an area had a lot of money, they invested in the latest fashions (interpreted by their local tailors) and when the times went bad, the fashion was fossilised, as it where. The folk costumes went out of use in most of Sweden during the 19th century. Here are a few different costumes (I've blotted out the faces, so as not to get in trouble):

A couple from the county Södermanland:


A girl from the county Västergötland (who should have her hair dressed and wear some form of head covering):


A woman from the county Dalarna (that has one of the greatest variety of costumes, this is just one of them):


A woman from the county Hälsingland:


There's not really a good picture out there of anyone wearing the costume I'm making. Not that no one's making it, but because most people cheat, and change the clothes to fit their idea of how it should look, and leave out some articles of clothing altogether. As a researcher, seamstress and wearer of historic costumes, this is quite upsetting. Why do it at all, if you won't do it right, I wonder? Well, here's a picture from the 1830's of a woman wearing a costume from my area, the southwest corner of the county Skåne:



The headdress in the picture is only for married women, so I won't be wearing that for a while yet. The costume consists of these parts, presented in the order you should have put them on:
  • A white, sleeveless linen shift, called hankasärk in this particular area.
  • Black woolen stockings.
  • A short, white linen "blouse" for want of a better word, called opplöt. It has a wide gathered collar, which might be made out of fine cotton, a very expensive fabric in that day.
  • A knitted woolen sweater, called spedetröja. It was felted until it lost its stretchiness. It was usually green, red, blue or black. Trimmed at neck and wrists with silk or velvet ribbons.
  • A bodice, liv, in silk, velvet or wool. It could have pretty much any color, but black, green and blue was most common. It is laced with a silver chain through silver buckles, and it also could be decorated with silk ribbons. At the bottom was sewn a linen roll, stuffed with flax. On this the skirts was supported. The roll was called pölsa, sausage.
  • Two or more woolen skirts. Again, green, blue and black was common. The skirts could have decoration of tucks or silk ribbons.
  • A striped apron, in wool or cotton. Blues, greens and reds where common.
  • A neck kerchief in silk.
  • A headdress. If you where married you wore the starched, white, linen klut, as in the picture. Unmarried women could wear a headdress made mostly out of red ribbons (for parties and weddings) or a colored, cotton head kerchief, put on the head and tied at the nape of the neck.
The material in the clothes depended on your economy. A poor farmers wife could obviously not afford a silk bodice and silver buckles, while a wealthy farmers wife might have several silk bodices, each with their sets of silver buckles. Also, you wouldn't wear a silk bodice while feeding the chickens, milking the cows, carding and spinning wool and cooking. For everyday use, linen and wool where the usual materials, and the colors where more subdued. The materials described above where for going to church or parties.
This took a while... I wonder if anyone will have the endurance to read it all?

Edit (15 August 2013): I've posted a short guide to researching Swedish folk costumes.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Wedding Dress and Medieval Veil

Today at long last I started sewing the wedding dress. The deadline now being set to 31 October might have had something to do with it...

First I basted the satin bodice pieces on the embroidered tulle, so as to lie still during the cutting as well as the sewing. That took a while, and all the time I heard loud meows from the bathroom, where I'd locked up the cat. Distracting. Anyway, I did all the basting and cutting today, and have also started sewing the bodice together. A bit time consuming, as I have piping in all the seams, and have to be careful to sew them in exactly right. There's no way I'm doing that on machine, not with the delicate tulle and all. Better trust to my own two hands in this case.

Speaking of veils the other day (not wedding veils, 14th century ones) I have a thin, semicircle, linen veil I made a couple of years ago. I liked the thing itself, but not the color. It was sort of yellowish, and I wanted it white, so I decided to try bleaching it in the sun. I did that by hanging it in my window, and it's now been there for two weeks. I wonder what the neighbors think?

I took it down today to see if it had helped, and it had! The past two weeks has been cloudy and rainy for the most part, but you can still see a difference between the veil and a piece of the original fabric if you look closely. Imagine what a couple of sunny summer weeks could do! I hung it up again, with the other side facing the window, to see if I can get it even whiter.
I've also received an additional day at work tomorrow, so that makes five days this week! :)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Chemisette and Coif

Last night I had the night shift, but I didn't sew on the wedding dress as I'd planned, not having cut out the tulle yet. I really, really must do that tomorrow! Instead I brought a couple of small projects that needed to be finished. It turned out they were both much closer to being finished then I'd thought, so it didn't last the whole night as I had planned. Usually I don't do sewing, or knitting or anything of the sort on Sundays, it being a day of rest. But trying to stay awake a whole night, while just sitting in a sofa most of the time is hard, and it also being a case of patient security, I decided to make an exception. If my hands are busy, it's much easier for me to stay awake.

The first project was a regency chemisette, based on the ones in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1, for the day in the future when I make myself a regency outfit. I started it two years ago, but it's been forgotten amongst all my other projects. It's all hand sewn, with really tiny stitches. It took close to forever hemming the two frills at the neck. It closes with braided ties at the neck, and with a drawstring at the "waist" (just under the bust), which I haven't added yet. I'm very happy with how it turned out, and my Mum, who laugh at most period fashions (at least most fashions before the 1800's), like the look of it very much. Perhaps her having seen and gotten used to them in Jane Austen movies helped. Not that most regency movies use neckline-fillers the way they should.... why is it so impossible to do things right? Anyway, it's nice to have her think some period clothes are pretty.


The other project I finished is my second version of the coif inspired by the one of St Birgitta. I didn't like how it turned out the first time. It's made in a rather coarse bleached linen, with the two halves sewn together using a simple sort of interwoven herringbone stitch.

The original had a much more complicated, and beautiful stitch, but I kept it simple. After all, I don't portray a noblewoman, as St Birgitta, called Fru Birgitta during her lifetime, was. (I hope I get this right; the title fru in Sweden during the middle ages was only used for noblewomen, royalty and the Virgin Mary. Though it's not often used anymore, fru in our day means a married woman of any level in society.) The coif too is hand sewn, with waxed linen thread, as with most of my medieval clothes. It has 13 small tucks on each side of the center back, to make room for the hair. The band at the edge is sewn together, to make a long, unbroken round. This is wound round the head, and keeps the coif securely on the head. I like it very much, it stays on and it's comfortable. If I want to I can pin a veil over it, for a more dressy look, or just to protect me from the sun.

So, though I didn't work on the wedding dress, I'm still rather pleased with the sewing I actually got done.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Thimbles

For the past two days I've been asked to work, and I've been asked to work another couple of days later this week. It looks like I might get to work at a somewhat regular basis in the near future, though I usually don't know when until the same day, or the day before. Still, I feel very blessed for the work I've got so far.

After work I went to the largest charity shop in town and got some very nice things there: three spools of middle weight, bleached linen thread, which I'll use for sewing period clothing, and a linen dishtowel woven in a diamond twill (I love linen dishtowels).


I also bought three thimbles. I've been thinking of starting a thimble collection, and these are the first three. I like the middle one best, but the others are sort of pretty too. I also have a thimbles-I've-broken-while-sewing collection. So far I only have two thimbles which I've pierced while sewing, but it's only a matter of time until it happens again. It could be an interesting collection, a tribute if you will to my productivity as a seamstress :) I was very much surprised the first time it happened, and I thought it was a weakness in the thimble. When it happened a second time a couple of years later I realised this can actually happen at times, and there's nothing wrong with the quality of the thimbles themselves. I'm glad I've saved both of them. It'll be interesting to see how many thimbles I'll break before I die...


I started cutting out the wedding dress tonight. I had to lock the cat up in the bathroom, or he would have ruined the fabrics. He really didn't like it, and I thought it unkind to keep him in there for too long, so I didn't get enough work done. I'll have to continue tomorrow. I want it all cut out before Saturday night. I'll be working that night, so I thought I might get some of the sewing on the bodice done while trying to stay awake, but I'll have to have the pieces cut out and the tulle basted to them before I sew them together.
You might say I have much to do and less time to do it in.