Thursday 27 December 2012

Mystery Project - Progress

So I’ve been working as much as I’ve been able on my sisters Disney outfit, and now perhaps you may guess who she’s going to be? I had a couple of good, but not correct guesses (Belle and Ariel), after introducing this project. A clue: it's not one of the Disney Princesses.

I haven’t made as much progress as I’d have wished though, as little B has been a bit fussy and demanding lately. Maybe he’s teething again… I’ve been worrying about how in the world I could get the dress to fit well without trying it even once on my sister, but now things are working out for the best. Me, Tobias and B are going away for a week, first visiting my family for a few days, and then his. A huge bonus to the pleasure of spending time with our families is that I will be able to have my sister try on the dress, and I can make some last minute changes if necessary. B will also have happy grandparents, two aunts and an uncle who’ll be more than happy to keep him occupied so I can sew.

The sister missionaries dropped by earlier for a few minutes, and were met by this sight: a mess of toys and other things, and a hooped skirt and a petticoat hanging from the ceiling. They asked if I had a new project, and were exited when I told them what it was. Girls, and many women of all ages often are when it comes to Disney outfits, me being one of them.
I have ended up doing some of the sewing by hand when B was asleep, and as so often happens when I do that, I ended up using historic sewing techniques. It's just the most practical and time saving way of doing hand sewing. Do any of you also do that, even when doing non historic sewing?

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my dear readers! May you be safe and have a happy time with family and friends.

As you might know, in this part of the world we celebrate on Christmas Eve. As many times as B woke up last night you might think he knew it was today, but he's too little for that. We will have a nice, quiet Christmas, just the three of us. It's been snowing all night, so from what I can see through the morning darkness, the world looks crisp, clean and beautiful. Perfect, I'm pleased as a cat with a bowl of cream! In a few minutes I'll make saffron buns for breakfast, the dough has been slowly rising in the fridge since last night.

Oh, I love Christmas!

Thursday 20 December 2012

Joy To the World

It’s pretty well known that Jesus was most likely not born in the winter, but in the spring, yet I think it’s rather fitting that we celebrate the arrival and birth of the Light of the world at a time of year when the darkness will gradually start to fall back in favour of the returning light.

"Be it unto me" by the talented Liz Lemon Swindle,
who's painted a lot of scenes from the Savior's life
I have a print of this painting at home, and I love it. 

I rejoice in the music of the season, and so, here are a few links to some of my favourites.

And this one has a sweet little video of the Nativity:

Jesus is the Christ. He was born by Mary, and is the only Begotten of the Father. He is my Savior. He knows me; my strengths and weaknesses, my name, my fears and wishes. He loves me, and underwent pain beyond imagination and sacrificed His life for me, little though I may deserve it at times. He would love nothing better than for me (and all of us) to return to Him and the Father after living good lives.

May we all remember the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Swedish Common Women’s Dress in the Mid 1800’s

I plan to (sometime) make a mid 1800’s outfit suitable for a wife of a man with a lower, but tolerably comfortable income, like a craftsman, clerk or lower civil servant. I prefer representing that social class, as high fashion is not my thing in real life; and though I can appreciate the beauty and workmanship going into fine period clothes (I love seeing the amazing outfits some of you talented ladies create), it’s just not me. I’m a simple woman of simple origins, and the sort of pretentions adopted by people of wealth and fashion does not agree with me. Besides, my little boy will be in tow to most events I ever go to, and that would seldom have been the case for a woman of the world in the past: she’d have had a nursery maid taking care of little Master B, while she herself was enjoying herself. I disapprove.

So anyway, the dress. In Sweden, and the rest of the world in the mid 1800’s, there were, not surprisingly, most often a difference in material, construction and accessories between the dresses of common women, and those truly able to follow what fashion dictated. I have stumbled on some difficulties in my research – the clothing of country women is tolerably well documented, but I can’t find much in the way of primary sources for the class I’m looking for. Some things may however apply to common women in both country and town, so I’ll write about what I’ve found. All pictures of dresses are from Digitalt Museum, and you can follow the links back to each dress. There are so many pretty dresses that I like, so I could hardly choose, and had to post several of them.

Material: From what I understand, in some countries it was common practice for women of all classes to buy ready made fabric at this time. 

NM.0092010 Wool jaquard, ca. 1850's.

Here in Sweden, while ready made silks, fine wools and cotton prints were certainly available, many women still spun and/or wove their own cloth.

A woman weaving in the living room, her son pausing in his play to have a snack, and the lodger Josabeth Sj√∂berg (who did the painting – I’ll be writing a post about her later) copying music. This is in Stockholm, so even in the capital women where weaving at home, though this, 1838, is a little earlier than what I’m aiming for.

Women in service (at least in the country) mostly received pay in the form of food, lodging and wool/cotton/flax which they themselves had to spin, weave and sew into clothes. Home woven wools, cotton warps with wool (or even silk) wefts, and cottons can all be seen in extant dresses. Blends of materials in the weft can also be seen; wool, silk, cotton and linen may well be used in the same dress. 

NM. 0105032 Cotton warp, wool and cotton weft, ca. 1855-65.

In wool dresses, solids are not uncommon. Many black dresses survive (though I didn't like any of them well enough to post), as black was common for best dresses, including wedding dresses for women of smaller incomes.

 NM.0238771 Cotton warp, wool weft, ca.1865-75.

If the warp is cotton, it's often in a different colour from the weft. 

 NM.0107418 Blue cotton warp, reddish-purple wool weft, ca. 1850-65.

Checks and plaids are very common both in wool, cotton/wool and cotton dresses. 

 NM.0232473 Home woven cotton, ca. 1850's.

NM.0162998 Home woven cotton, ca. 1840-60.

NM. 0148437 Cotton warp, wool weft, ca. 1850's.

Sometimes a home made fabric could be handed in to be printed.

NM.0182337 Home woven, brown cotton warp, black wool weft, printed, ca. 1840-55.

It’s likely that a woman may have owned dresses made from both ready made and home woven fabric.

NM.0111733 Cotton print, ca. 1850-70.  

Construction Details: Most dresses are entirely hand sewn, but a few have some machine stitching. Like the fashionable dresses, the common women’s often have
- lined bodices and sleeves
- piped seams in the bodice
- dropped shoulders
- shoulder seams pushed back
- skirts pleated at the front and sides, but gauged, or more tightly pleated in the back
- faced hems 
- darts in the bodice front (though most of the time only two)
- sometimes sleeves cut on the bias
- sleeves are cut with one or two seams, usually with one or two small tucks at the elbow. Some are rather tight, others wider and sewn to a cuff, or left loose and slightly flaring at the wrist. In the 60’s, coat sleeves begin to appear.

But while fashionable dresses usually had princess seams in the bodice back, the common women's dresses have
- just two back pieces in most cases
- front closure (even in the 1840’s, when fashion called for back closure – very practical), with hooks and eyes, often lacquered black.

NM.0189270 Hand woven, warp in wool and cotton, weft in wool, cotton and linen, probably 1860's.

- the opening continuing down into the skirt (no dogleg closure), but as an apron would have been worn by at least the country women, it did not show
- boning made of cane, if any was used. Some dresses are so heavily boned it's doubtful any other support was used.
- an often slightly wider neckline than is common in at least the 50’s and 60’s

One can also see that some details may be present long after they’ve gone out of fashion, like fan front dresses in the 70’s (like in this picture).

I really love these dresses, and can’t wait to make one for myself! Well, actually I’ll have to wait, as I have neither the material, the money, nor the time to make one now. Sigh. Well, it does give me time for more research. Underwear and accessories worn by these women is of course also interesting, and essential, but I will post on that separately, as it’s in these details you can truly differ between a working class or lower middle class Swedish woman and, say, an American one. It’s also where I’ve found it most difficult to find information.

Edit; the post on Swedish common women's mid 19ch century underwear can be found here, and the one on accessories here.

Friday 14 December 2012

Mystery Project

For a couple of weeks we’ve had snow here (it’s snowing again tonight), and though I know the snow has caused a lot of trouble in the traffic, I’m so pleased. I love the look of snow, and how it adds a little brightness to the dark afternoons and evenings of our northern winters. By four in the afternoon it’s pitch dark here, and where my sister and her family lives, much further north, it hardly gets light at all at this time of year. Hopefully the snow will stay over Christmas. The snow does hinder one to get around with the pram though, so we’ve been home a bit more than usual lately. 

My baby just had his first birthday. How fast this year has passed! It feels like we’ve had him in our family forever. His first teeth finally poked through (so far I’ve not been bitten when nursing…), and he learned to walk for real a week before his birthday. He doesn’t really speak yet, but wants to know what everything is called. I think he’s building up quite a vocabulary for when he will.

I’ve not been idle since last I posted, but I don’t really have anything fun to show for it yet.
I began working on a dress from old curtains in November, but was then interrupted by another, more intriguing, project. My 15 year old sister is going to a Church youth conference after New Years, and one of the dances is themed “Disney”. She asked me for help, and as I was pining away from the lack of fun costumes to make, it really came as a blessing.

I won’t tell what costume I’m making just yet, but will give you a sneak peak. 

 Feel free to guess though ;)