Friday 25 December 2009

Bah, Humbug or A Christmas in Scrubs

I've been working the past two days, and I'm working tonight as well. As I've said before, in Scandinavia we celebrate on Christmas Eve, so this means I've spent Christmas alone with the cat in the mornings, and at work in the afternoons and evenings. I thought I'd feel very lonely and sorry for myself, and so made the decision to pretend it wasn't Christmas at all, somewhat in the style of Ebeneezer Scrooge. I even told my family not to call me on Christmas Eve, because then I'd probably start crying.

As it turned out, I had a very nice Christmas Eve, it felt very Christmasy, cosy and everything. I wasn't even all that homesick. Most patients went home for a few hours, so for a great part of the afternoon it was very quiet and almost sleepy. Me and the other nurses watched Christmas shows on TV and ate way to much chocolate and cookies, and tried to make it a special day for the ones who had to celebrate Christmas in the hospital, and their families. It felt good to spend Christmas serving others.

This is an embroidery I drew and made a couple of years ago, and take out in the beginning of December. I like the quiet mother-child moment. I'm sure Mary must have been an extraordinary woman, to be given the great responsibility to take care of the Savior as a child. At the same time, she must have been like most other loving mothers in the history of this world. I wanted to show that side of her.

Tonight, after work, I'll be going home to my family for a few days, and then I'm of to Stockholm. The New Years dress is not finished, so I'll have to do that at my parent's. Finishing at the last moment..... again.
A Merry Christmas to you all!

Wednesday 23 December 2009


So, I should have concentrated on making the skirt for my New Years dress yesterday, but I got distracted by something else. So annoying when that happens….

What caught my interest were the medieval embroideries on this blog, based on German finds from the 13th and 14th centuries. I use thick woollen yarn, which is nice, since it covers the surface quickly. I don’t think it’s really period in this kind of embroidery, silk would have been more appropriate, but since the fabric isn’t period either I don’t mind. I won’t be using this in a period setting anyway. I think I might decorate a pillow with it… only it doesn’t match anything in my home.

Because of the colours I call this my Medieval Gryffindor Embroidery. Usually I don’t really like to embroider all that much, but this is fun to work with. A bit addictive, really. I think I might use this technique again sometime, in silk, for a purse to use at re-enactments. That would probably be a bit to nice for my social status though… hmmm.

I did make some little progress with the skirt yesterday, but not close to how much I needed to get done. I’ll hopefully get a little sewing done after work tonight. A good thing is the skirt turned out quite good at the first try, I took in a seam a little, and that was it. Here’s another teaser picture, where I’ve pinned the sleeve to the bodice.

Looks rather good so far, in my opinion.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Tiny Update on the Velvet New Years Dress

Yesterday was a beautiful, cold, winter day. I went out to buy a present for my youngest brother, and I must say that, even though I was prepared for it, I was a tiny bit disgusted with the amount of money people spend on presents. The woman in front of me must have spent more money on the presents for (as far as I understood it) two children, than my parents will spend on all seven of us. Ridiculous. Anyway, the weather was lovely, with the trees all white with frost, so I came home satisfied with my outing.

When I came home, I all but finished the sleeves of my New Years dress. As with the bodice, I made the pattern for the sleeves myself (well, for the sleeves I just measured and cut, really), and they are made in three (four?) layers. First a tight fitting lining, then a satin and a tulle layer, sewn as one, gathered to the lining at the top, bottom and where the horizontal blue band goes. Then the bands, making up the lattice is sewn on. There will be five vertical, and one horizontal, bands on every sleeve, and then the band at the bottom of the sleeve. The ribbons are made of strips of fabric, folded and sewn by hand. The band running horizontally round the middle of the sleeve is sewn onto the sleeve all the way, but the vertical ones are just sewn to the top and bottom of the sleeve, and where they are crossed by the horizontal one.

Actually, so far the sleeves are entirely hand sewn. I won't sew them on the dress until I've sewn on the skirt. I might have to make a few changes on it, and if that's the case, I don't want to be restricted by sleeves. I have no mannequin, so I have to do all fittings myself, while wearing the dress. That is a real pain sometimes.
Not much of an update, but I'm really tired, so that's all I feel like doing. I'm happy Sunday is a day of rest :)

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Velvet New Years Dress

So, my funds being a bit low, I could not buy the fabric I needed for the 1911 dress. I have to work with what I have at home, so that makes a dramatic change of plans.

The dress I have decided on making is very much inspired by Swedish court dresses. The court dresses was introduced by King Gustav III in 1778. The history about how it got introduced is a bit complicated, so I won’t go into that. The dress has looked pretty much the same all the time it was in use, only the silhouette changing with the fashion. This is how it looked when it was first introduced (the lady to the right):

And as worn by Crown Princess Desideria in the 1810’s:

Crown Princess Josefina in 1825:

And again in 1837:

Three generations of noblewomen in 1944 (the two girls about to be presented at court):

The dress was always black, full length, and very simple. Pretty much any black dress could be made a court dress by adding the lattice sleeves. Even though the dress was simple, it was very desirable to be allowed to wear one. Only the royal ladies, and ladies presented at court was allowed that privilege. The last time the court dress was used officially (to my knowledge) was in 1974 (when it looked like this),

and since they’ve not be in use for more than 30 years, I think I can get away with wearing a dress much like it.

My dress will be made out of dark blue velvet (old curtains really), and the sleeves will be in thin, white satin with soft white tulle over it (both fabrics are leftover scraps from other projects), and the lattice in some semi-shiny, blue, polyester fabric, cut from an old dress. The zipper will be salvaged from that dress as well, so I won’t spend anything at all on this gown.

So far I’ve all but finished the bodice, and am now working on the sleeves. I’m too tired to take pictures of it now, so you have to be patient. I have always liked the look of these dresses, and think it’ll be very pretty. Not sure what other people will think, though my brother sort of liked it.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Christmas Meme

I too saw this meme on Sarah Jane's blog. It’s always interesting to find out more about people, so here is mine:

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate. Never tried eggnog, it’s not something we drink here in Sweden. And I really like hot chocolate.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa never really had anything to do with our Christmases, but we wrap the presents and put them under the tree.

3. Coloured lights on the tree/house or white? White. No coloured lights will ever be in my tree if I can help it. I want a peaceful Christmas, and the coloured lights make me nervous, like looking at a shop window….the blinking kind is even worse.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, but it looks nice. It’s not tradition here, but some people do it.

5. When do you put the Christmas decorations up? On the Saturday before the first of Advent.

6. Favourite holiday dish? The Christmas ham, I think. I like it best cold, on a piece of bread with strong, sweet mustard on. Yummy.

7. Favourite holiday memory as a child? The Christmas Eve breakfasts.

8. When did you learn the truth about Santa? We never believed in Santa. Our parents didn’t want to make us believe in something that turned out to be a lie – what would that do to our faith in the Lord, which they taught us about? We were never allowed to prevent other children from believing though.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes, in Sweden everyone opens their presents on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day.

10. How do you decorate your tree? So far I haven’t got a tree this year, but last year I had a wee thing in a pot, decorated with tiny white lights and home made tags with scriptures and extracts from Christmas songs on them, speaking of the Saviour.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? For my own part I love it! It makes everything so much lighter, a definite improvement to this dark time of year.

12. Can you ice skate? Yes, but I’m not very good at it.

13. Do you remember your favourite gift? Last years gift from my parents was one of my favourites; a large glass cover, very much like the one in Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays to you? Remembering why we celebrate. The family is very central in my faith; I believe it’s the whole point of the Saviour’s salvation, to enable us to live with our families forever. So being with my family is a part of it. I listen to a lot of Christmas music the month leading up to it, to keep in mind why we celebrate. But I think it’s important to not only remember it on Christmas; we should always keep in mind what the Saviour did for us.

15. What is your favourite holiday desert? Don’t know…

16. What is your favourite holiday tradition? On the morning of Christmas Eve some of the family members (these past years usually me and some of my siblings) get up early and make Lussebullar. It is sweet wheat bread, seasoned with saffron, always eaten at, and around Christmas. Usually you make them in individual rolls, in fancy shapes, but for the Christmas Eve breakfast my family put the rolls so close together they become one, big bread when baked. My Grandmother did this when my Dad was little, and when the children asked her why, she said it was tradition. My Dad, or one of his brothers, couldn’t say tradition, so he said badilon, and so that’s the name of our Christmas saffron bread: Badilon. That's our Christmas Eve breakfast, and I think that’s the best part of Christmas.

17. What tops your tree? Well, when I get a big tree, it’ll be a star. We’ve always had stars in my family’s trees.

18. Which do you prefer – Giving or Receiving? It’s very nice to give presents that’s appreciated. To receive something that shows the giver knows you well are nice too.

19. Favourite Christmas song? Told you that in this post.

20. Candy canes – Yuck or Yum? Again, we don’t have the American kind here, so I don’t know really. I like the Swedish kind though.

21. Favourite Christmas show? I like two very different shows: A Christmas Carol from 1984, and Little Women from 1994. I like the first because of the message, and the second for the loving family relationships.

22. Saddest Christmas song? Hmmmm…. I don't like sad Christmas songs.

That was it. Hope you enjoy :)

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Hemstitching a Collar

My Dad is home again, and feeling much better. They finally figured out what’s the matter with him. It’s not really an uncommon illness, so I’m surprised it took them so long. This new doctor came in, took a look at him and said “I know what it is”, and that was it. It can be cured with antibiotics, so he should be well soon. But before antibiotics were discovered it was usually fatal. Scary. I’m so relieved it’s nothing to worry about these days. Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers.

The past week or so I’ve been working on the collar to my Swedish folk costume blouse (called opplöt in the local dialect of the time). In the part of Sweden where I'm from, the collar was made out of a long strip of fabric, gathered or cartridge pleated to the comparatively wide neckline, and meant to lie down on the shoulders, like this example from the 1830's:

While the opplöt will be made out of linen, the collar is made of fine (30x26 threads/square cm, or 77x66 threads/square inch), white cotton. The reason for this is that cotton was a new, expensive, and very fashionable material at the time (early to mid 19th century), and most people could not afford to make the whole opplöt out of it, but they used it in the collar since that would be seen. The opplöt itself was made of the cheaper linen, since it would be hidden under a knitted woolen sweater (for want of better English word), like this:

Mine is sewn with a waxed cotton thread, plainly hemmed at the short edges, and the long side sewn with hemstitching. Contemporary examples seem to have anything from plain hems, elaborate drawn thread work, edgings of simple lace, or a combination of these. I’ve seen one example made of embroidered tulle. It would seem the women of the time decorated their collars the way they had the taste, skills, time, and money for. What the opplöt was to be used for must have had its weight as well. I’m sure an opplöt used every week for church would have had a plainer collar than the one used on ones wedding day, for example. I'm not sure collars like this was even worn for every day work. The width and length of the collars seems to have differed a bit as well. Mine will be 144,5 x 11,5 cm (56 15/16 x 4 7/16”), and the hems will be the same width as in the extant examples I have information on, 6 mm (almost 2/8”) at the short edges and 17 mm (11/16”) at the long side.

I had never tried hemstitching before, so I’m making a simple one. It turned out to be so easy and fun, that when I make another opplöt, I’ll make a more elaborate drawn thread work on the collar. This is what the process looks like on the one I’m making now:

From the left: (1) the plain fabric, (2) a single thread drawn out, (3) the first side sewn, hemming the collar at the same time, and then (4) the other side sewn. I pick up three threads in every stitch, and twist the thread around them to make the tiny holes.

I think it looks very pretty with the contrast between the single layer of fabric, and the double layers at the hem, and the darker line made by the hemstitching.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Christmas Music

First I want to say thank you for the prayers! I talked to my Dad yesterday, and though they still don't know what's wrong with him, he's in tolerably good spirits, though impatient to go home. Hopefully whatever-it-is will be quickly cured. So now, all I can do is to pray, and live my life as I usually do. So here's a post I had planned to post the day I got the news of my Dad.
I love Christmas carols! Music has always had a power to make me feel the greatness and beauty of God’s love for us. I believe a song, or a hymn, can be a prayer. One of my favourite carols is a Swedish song, first written in 1812, and rewritten in 1817. It’s actually alluding to when Christ entered Jerusalem just before passover, and His status after his Resurrection, but it’s always sung on Christmas. I think it very fitting, for without the Atonement He made for us, His birth would have been no more different or significant than any other persons (which of course are all little miracles of themselves). I have tried to translate it, but I’m afraid there might be some errors, and the poetry is lost in the translation. Still, I think the spirit of the song is clear enough.

Prepare the way for the Lord

Prepare the way for the Lord!
Mountains: sink, Depths: arise!
He comes, He, whom in times past
Was revealed as our Hope.

The First One of Righteousness,
The Greatest of the House of David.
Be He blessed who came in the name of the Lord!

People of God, He comes forth, an Eternal King.
Strew palm leaves, spread out garments,
Sing your fulfilled Hope.
The promises of God are true, now shout Hosanna!

The First One of Righteousness,
The Greatest of the House of David.
Be He blessed who came in the name of the Lord!

Widen your gates for the Holiness of the Lord.
Behold, the nations wait around You, to attain Your salvation.
In all the countries of the world
This song of praise will ring out:

The First One of Righteousness,
The Greatest of the House of David.
Be He blessed who came in the name of the Lord!

The throne He ascends is in the house of His Father.
The realm He dedicates is love and light alone.
The praise sung by tender voices declares grace and peace.

The First One of Righteousness,
The Greatest of the House of David.
Be He blessed who came in the name of the Lord!

This song can be sung to two different tunes. My favourite is a Swedish folk tune, which can be heard here, sung at a traditional St Lucia celebration (which I will explain in more detail later). They only sing the first two verses though.

I love this version, since it combines my faith in Christ with my Swedish culture. Though I must say, I prefer spiritual music to be sung by people who actually believe in what they’re singing. Otherwise, to me, it’s very close to a lie, even though it might be beautiful. Is that very harsh thinking? Perhaps, since the songs rings in my heart when I listen to them, they become true, because I believe in them? Hmm, I got all tangled up in my own musings here. Better stop :)
Anyway, enjoy the music of the season!

Friday 4 December 2009

Need Your Prayers

My Dad has been admitted to the hospital today, and they don't know what's wrong with him. He's in pain, he's got a temperature, and from what my Mum said, he was a little disoriented. They've taken a lot of tests, some kind of scans, and they've put him on a strong intravenous antibiotic. I'm worried, of course, and both he, my family and I could really need your prayers right now.

I hate not to know what's going on! In my profession I'm usually one of the first who get to know things, but now I don't even know if it were a MR or a CT they did, nor which antibiotics they give him or anything.

We've seen so much illness in this family already... I pray this will be easily cured.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

18th Century Underpinnings

The reading frenzy has passed for this time, and I'm sewing again.

Last night I finished my 18th century shift (dug out of the ongoing projects-box, half finished), after a couple of day’s intensive sewing. It’s made of fine, bleached linen, and sewed with waxed linen thread. No pattern was used, I just looked at all the pictures, and read all the descriptions I could find, and went from there. I had planned to add ruffles to the sleeves, but I like them as they are, so I won’t.

The shift is cut without shoulder seams, and width is added to the sides with gores, and with gussets in the sleeves. One of the side gores was pieced together from two halves, to save fabric – very period. All the seam allowances are folded in and sewn down, so that they won’t ravel when washed.

The fully boned stays (known as a corset nowadays) were made several years ago, and are a bit too large. They’re comfortable and give me close to the right shape, so they will work for now, but the new ones will be smaller. I’ll keep these though; I might (sigh) grow into them in the future. They’re made of cotton twill, and bound with cotton bias tape (so the materials aren’t period either), and completely hand sewn. Perhaps I’ll cover them in another fabric in future, and then they’ll look period enough.

It’s a bit of a project to lace myself into them; I can’t do it without looking in a mirror. My new ones will probably have front lacing as well as back lacing. Not as common in the period, from what I understand, but much easier to lace oneself into. I used a 1/8 scale pattern I got from one of my teachers in high-school, that I scaled up and changed to (hmm, somewhat) fit me. No idea how period the pattern is, but since I’ll never walk around in public without wearing clothes over my stays, they’ll do. The 18th century is not a period I usually do, anyway. Oh, and we all know what a push-up effect 18th century stays gives…. I exhaled in all the pictures so I wouldn’t look downright indecent. I have no intentions of showing of my eeeh… assets to the world. When I’ve finished the whole costume I’ll definitely wear it with a fichu tucked into the neckline for modesty.

The under petticoat was sewn a couple of years ago, and is made of a coarse, unbleached linen. Very simple, but the outfit I plan to make will be lower middle class at the highest, so I think it’s all right. It is mostly hand sewn. The front and back are pleated to two separate waistbands; the ties of the back waistband are tied in front, and then the front ones are tied in the back. This is a period way to close petticoats, and makes them very easily adjustable in case of changes in waist measurements, due to pregnancy, weight gain/loss, or a new pair of stays.

Now I have the underpinnings done, I’m really looking forward to making the rest of the clothes. I’ll need a pocket or two, an outer petticoat, a jacket, an apron, a more period correct cap (for the pictures I just took one I had lying around), and a pair of knitted stockings. The stockings are nearly done; I just need to find the inspiration to finish them. I’d like a straw hat and a pair of period shoes as well, but I won’t be able to afford that for a long time. Never mind, I don’t really have time to work on this costume right now anyway….