Wednesday 29 September 2010

Another Recomendation

I'm sure many of those of you who, like me, love costume dramas, have noticed that some costumes appear in several productions. There is a website dedicated to finding as many as possible of these recycled movie costumes, and it's called (surprice) Recycled Movie Costumes.

You can do a search by era, and submitt costumes if you know of any that's not listed on their site (I've submitted a couple some time ago). It's great fun, and some costumes have been used far more times than you'd think.

One thing you'll get comfirmed is how truly different looks you get, depending on corsetry, hair and accessories, even when the same outfit is worn - just look at these pictures:

Jennifer Ehle as Elisabeth Bennet in Pride and prejudice (1995).

Jemima Roper as Amanda Price in Lost in Austen (2008).

This could serve as an exellent example for all girls and women who (would) like to wear period clothes in historic settings: no matter how pretty and accurate your outfit is, if you don't do your hair in a period way it'll just look weird. It's all in the details :)

Monday 27 September 2010


The other evening I suddenly thought I’d like to try out an embroidery technique, known in Sweden as “Skånskt yllebroderi” (Scanian wool embroidery). It was common in the countryside in the county Skåne during the 18th and 19th centuries for covers and cushions. It’s embroidered free-hand on wool fabric (traditionally recycled from old clothing) with wool yarn.

The fabric is usually dark, and the embroidery is done in bright colours, often illustrating flowers, trees, animals and humans. To save material, the stitches are very short on the wrong side. Every woman had her own style, depending on her skill and artistic eye, so there are a lot of different looks to these works of art. Some are downright ugly in my opinion, but others are very charming. They all have the whole surface covered with different kinds of images, and for covers and cushions made for weddings, they also have the initials of the bride and/or groom, and the year embroidered on them.

My first project was a bit more humble than a cover for a bed or a cushion for the seat of a horse drawn wagon – I used a leftover piece from my folk costume skirt and made a small free-hand embroidery of a flower, and then a frame round it. I thought it looked a bit empty, so I added the “stars” or whatever sprinkled in the background. The flower is tolerably traditional, but I’m not so sure about the stars; I don’t care though, I think it looks pretty.

I decided to re-cover my old pincushion with it, since it was looking rather dismal – I have to do that every few years.

I also used this opportunity to put a piece of cardboard in the bottom, to save my fingers from accidental pricks; should have thought about that some years ago...

I like how it turned out very well indeed. Small, quick projects are gratifying.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Winter Coat Fabrics

Two years ago I found a lovely, burgundy wool fabric for a very good price, and bought it to make a winter coat. I cut out most of the pieces for the outer layer, and began sewing them together, and then something or other came in between, and it’s been left hanging since. Now I thought I’d finish it so I can wear it this coming winter, since my old ones really are threadbare. I want rather a deep hood on this coat, but I didn’t have enough fabric, but then last year I found some wool of the same weight, and a shade or two darker than mine, in a charity shop. Yay. I’ll use that for cuffs and other trim. The lining fabric is graphite grey satin, which I think will make a nice contrast.

I’ve made the pattern myself – it’s a favourite style of mine, with the princess seams starting at the shoulder, and I’ve used that style both for coats and dresses in the past. Well, to say I made a pattern is a bit of an overstatement… I used my old coat as a model, and I don’t have the pattern pieces left; at least I can’t find them. That makes it a bit tricky, since I only just bought the lining fabric a month ago and so haven’t got the pieces cut out – oh what fun to cut out the lining without a pattern... Yesterday I started, and by carefully pinning the lining fabric to the outer one, I cut out the two front panels. I must be more careful to save my patterns… not that that would have helped much in this case, since I changed the fit quite a bit once I started to sew. Ah well.

I haven’t cut out the sleeves or the hood yet, I haven’t even made the pattern for them yet. I will have to try to get a move on – it’s getting a bit chilly some days, and before you know it there will be frost.

Sunday 19 September 2010

So Tired

The last couple of weeks I’ve got increasingly tired, going to bed at unnaturally early hours, and taking naps almost every day – so not like me. I wonder if it’s just the shortening days or something else. Either way it leaves me with a lot less energy and inspiration to work on school or any textile related thing than I’d wish. I can't help it, but I’m feeling a bit listless.

I’ve managed to get a little work done however. I’m working on the 43d row of cording on the petticoat. The group I’m working on now will be as wide as the one at the hem, and then I’ll make groups with fewer cords in them, probably three or four cords/group. It’s very convenient sewing when you can’t seem to work up anything that looks like brainpower to do something more complicated. You just go round and round and round and round….

The Bayeux-inspired embroidery has all that was drawn on it sewn, so now I have to figure out what I want to do on it next. The borders need to be embroidered – the upper one should be simple enough, I’ll just take whatever figures captures my fancy from the original. The lower one is the problem – I could do something similar to the top, but I think I’d prefer to add the events that happened before the major scene. That way I’ll get the whole story, with less work. And then I’ll have to figure out what the text should be, and what language I want it in. I think I’ll stick to Latin as the original, it looks cool. And I think I’ve decided to do more scenes after this one – the question is which ones; the burning bush, perhaps, and then Moses and Aron before Pharao? Decisions, decisions…

And lastly, lo and behold, I have started work on my winter coat again! I haven't done much (almost nothing to tell the truth), but I've got the ball rolling, so it should be easier to just continue. I will post about that separately. Right now there seems to be a good chance I will be very happy with it when finished.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Just a Short Post to Recommend...

... the Casualty 1900's series. Well, I don't think it's on TV anymore (or yet - it hasn't broadcasted here in Sweden anyway), but it's available on DVD.

If you like BBCs costume dramas, and also happens to like series like ER, Chicago Hope etc. you will love this. It's about the lives of the doctors, nurses and patients in London Hospital in 1906, 1907 and 1909. It's based on journals, newspaper cuttings, diaries and so on from the people who worked there, and from the little I know about Edwardian England, and nursing back then, it looks accurate enough. As a lover of history, and an RN myself, this is just perfect. It's recomended from the age of 15 here in Europe, as it's rather grafic in the ghastliness of illnesses, injuries and living conditions of the poor of East End. It's interesting, sad, and yet encouraging.

The problem with good costume dramas is that I get a sudden and strong wish to make clothes from that era - so in future I might make a Sisters uniform from the early 20th century...

Wednesday 8 September 2010

On Request :)

This post is for the benefit of some ladies from the Sewing Academy, as a short answer to how common Scandinavian women dressed in the mid 19th century. This is not all the information there is – I myself have a lot of unanswered questions, but still: here are the pictures I promised. I won’t include pictures of upper and middle class women, as they dressed pretty much the way women of the same social standing in the United States of that time (I did however notice a slightly higher level of women, even young ones, wearing caps in their portraits, than in the States). I only found Swedish and Danish pictures, and they where hard to come by... First the ones with a really local character.

A Danish painting from 1856, by Christen Dalsgaard, called “Mormoner på besøg hos en tømrer på landet”, meaning ”Mormons visiting a carpenter in the country”. As a mormon myself, I think this is an interesting one :)

Another of Christen Dalsgaard’s paintings, from 1852, called “Ung Jysk bondepiga skriver vennens navn på den duggede rude” - “A young farmgirl from Jylland writing her friend’s name on the dewy window”.

The red sleeves are most likely what is seen of a knitted sweater – similar ones where worn by women in the very south of Sweden, like this, from Torna in the county Skåne (Scania) by J. Kulle, mid 19th century. The painting is called “Söndagsmorgon” – “Sunday morning”.

Or this, by Kilian Zoll, 1840’s: “Majsångare I Skåne” – “Maysingers in Scania”.

Mind, what we refer to as folk costumes today varied extremely much in existance and apperance with country, location, time, economy, age and personal preference, so these pictures are in no way exclusive! I am also horribly biased - Scania is my county, so I have more pictures from there than from anywhere else in Sweden, and I have more Swedish than Danish pictures for the same reason - sorry about that.

Then we have the ones which are more fashionable:

Christen Dalsgaard, Danish, 1858: “Ung pige beder landsbyens gamle postbud besørge et brev” – ”Young girl asking the villages old postman to attend to a letter”.

David Monies, Danish, 1850: “Soldatens hjemkomst til Køpenhavn 9 September 1849” – ”The soldier comes home to Copenhagen 9 September 1849”. Notice the cap. She also wears her apron – was that the common practice, or was she just so delighted to welcome her husband that she didn’t take the time to take it of and put her bonnet on? (I feel so sorry for the poor widow in the background who's husband has not returned....)

And the ones in between:

A Swedish servant, 1860’s. She seems to have a checked dress, with a kerchief round her neck as well as on her head – the one on the head would be the norm for most Swedish women. She also wears an apron.

A.G. Hafström, Sweden, probably late 1860s: “Avskedspredikan för emigranter vid Tullpackhuset” – ”Farewell sermon for emigrants by Tullpackhuset” (in Gothenburg). A lot of kerchiefs and aprons. If that is some kind of outer wear jackets, or in-door basques is difficult to tell… I vote for jackets.

H. Siegumsfelt, Denmark, 1863 – no idea what this painting is called – notice the cap.

Danish couple, 1860’s - she's wearing a cap and apron.

Now, this Swedish countrywoman is thought to have had her picture taken in the 1870’s, but as you can see, her dress have some elements that was in fashion some 20-25 years before. It's also shorter than what is fashionable, to enable her to work.

This is very typical for Swedish countrywomen at this time – you can even se mutton sleeves from the 1830’s a far in as the 1870’s, as in this picture from Scania:

And here’re a few other pictures from Scania, mixing fashion with local tradition (most of them from the 1860’s/early 70’s):

Most women (at the very least the married ones) from the country would have had something on their heads when going out, but not all of them wear them in their portraits. In many areas, hats and bonnets were not for the women of the farming community . Corsets would not have been worn by them either - it would have been considered very vain, and maybe even immoral. Some dresses had boning of cane, to give some support. Multiple petticoats, and maybe quilted petticoats would have supported the skirts. Aprons seams to have been extremely important to these people - you see them in almost all photographs. I'm not sure all of these women are wearing dresses - I think some of them are wearing waist lenght jackets, as an indoor garment.
Also, as we discussed over att the SA, linen was used in underwear, wools in outer clothes - also, dresses with a cotton warp and a wool weft was getting common, kerciefs was made from wool, cotton or silk. Aprons was made from wool and/or cotton, or maybe silk for dressier occasions.
There, I hope you enjoyed what little I have - finding images of "fashionably" dressed farmers wives is not easy. But I think it's fun, since my own ancestors where farmers and would have dressed somewhat similar :)

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Working on Old Projects

Last time I posted I said I was coming down with a cold, and that was some cold – I had a headache and fever for four days, which returned briefly over the weekend, and I’m still coughing. I missed the first three days of school, so a week into the term I’m already behind – smashing….

The good news is that I’ll be able to do most of my studying the coming two months from home – my own dear home! (Happy dance!) That gives me quite a bit of hope.

Since I’ve been feeling first so bad and then so tired the past ten days or so I haven’t really made any progress to boast about in any of my projects. I’ve done some sewing on the petticoat, and begun the 36th row of cording.

The other day I took out an old project that’s been hibernating for a few years – my English wool embroidery inspired by the Bayeux tapestry. It’s not intended to be a copy at all, but I’ve been heavily inspired by the look, colours and technique of it. I wanted a story that would have other people than soldiers in it, and one most people would be familiar with, and feel medieval enough, so I chose the Biblical story of Moses. The plan was, when I started it, that I’d embroider the whole story, but we’ll see how that works out. If I only ever finish this segment it’ll still look nice on my wall. Of course, it would be more of an impact to have several scenes from the story.

It’s embroidered with thin wool yarn on linen, and I drew the figures myself. I'm not completly satisfied with them - they don't look odd enough. Anyway, this was easy sewing during my illness – no need to think, just to fill in the areas with colour, and listening to the Old Testament online.

I like to listen to the scriptures, as a complement to my reading, and now it was time for the Old Testament. I never read it through (I’ve read most of it, but not everything), so I started listening to it while knitting or sewing a while back, and it’s very soothing. Interesting too, you get a new perspective on the history-part of it, when you go through it so quickly. When I read the Bible, I usually study some specific event or doctrine, not cover to cover.

I’m working up the inspiration to finish a winter coat that I begun a couple of years ago (is this the autumn of finishing old projects?), my old ones being threadbare. I’ve got it hanging on my wardrobe door, in the hope that inspiration will strike. It will be in wine red wool, but that’s pretty much all I know for sure so far – the sleeves and hood are not cut out yet. I’m running out of fabric, so it will take some figuring out how to make the most of what I have.