Tuesday 24 December 2013

A Minion for Little B

Little B has a great liking for the minions in the ‘Despicable Me’ movies. He’s never seen the movies, as he’s a bit too young, but he’s seen some of the short films and music videos starring the minions. A while back I saw a few examples of amigurumi minions on Ravelry and decided to make him one. I began in November, and finished it this morning, Christmas Eve, the day we celebrate and give presents in Sweden, after sitting up half the night working on it. I have had a few other things that also needed doing, what with us moving in a week and everything….

Anyway, I used one of the free patterns on Ravelry as a starting point, but didn’t like how it turned out, so in the end I improvised a great deal. I had planned to let the minion have two eyes, like this fellow:

Unfortunately I found, at half past one last night, that the grey crochet yarn I thought I had was nowhere to be found. Luckily I did have a small amount of grey embroidery floss, which was only just enough to make a (rather shallow) Cyclops goggle, like what this one has:

Phew. It vexed me a bit that the tiny buttons I had planned to go on the front of the trousers were packed and impossible to get to, but I can stitch them on later. I had also planned to embroider a G on the front, but that too will have to wait - if it ever will happen…. I did have some scraps of white cotton fabric that had not yet been packed though, and I had left my embroidery floss unpacked on purpose. This morning I embroidered an eye, stitched it to the minion, embroidered a smile and then attached the goggle.

Finished. I’m quite happy with the result, despite the few miscalculations, and even better, B is happy with it. Good thing too, as it is the only Christmas present any of us got today: we’ll save the rest of our gifts for when we have moved (not that we ever give much; we’re quite restrained when it comes to that. Better one or two things really appreciated than several that you don’t care that much about, just for the sake of it). We don’t really need more stuff to carry.

Despite us celebrating Christmas amongst boxes and cartons, we are happy. We have each other, we have good food, we’re healthy, we’ll be moving to a new home in little over a week, we’ll be having a new baby next summer. God has blessed us greatly.

I hope you all have a nice Christmas (or just a nice week if you don’t celebrate it), with lots of joy, love and inspiration.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Why Historically Correct?

I’m pondering a future blog post (EDIT: now published) for my medieval blog and my 19th century blog (both in Swedish), aimed at beginner living historians/historic costumiers, or those who haven’t even started out yet. While I know there are many reasons for choosing to make historical or historically inspired clothing, for me personally historic accuracy (or as close as we can reasonably get) is important for several reasons:

- Almost everyone who sees you in “period” clothing will assume it’s correct. That may well spread old misconceptions further, or create new ones, unless you’ve done your research and made good interpretations of what would have been worn. Also, as clothing usually reflects a country’s economy, political and religious views, traditions, current events and how they view people (men and women, adults and children, rich and poor, natives and foreigners, etc.) at any given time in history, wearing the wrong things will also add to fabricating history. As we see enough of that in most “historic” films and TV-series, we don’t really need any more….

EDIT 2015-05-12
- Historically accurate vs. historically inspired - this is really a spectrum in which all of us are located. If you for some reason don't have the inclination, opportunity or skill to make tolerably historically accurate clothing, it would perhaps be more fitting to call your outfit historically/period-of-choice inspired, as opposed to the plain historical/period-of-choice. If you have deviated from what was done in period, it's no longer historical. That's a fact. Be honest about what you've made, and most people will be fine with it. It's when you try to pass something inspired of as accurate that even the kindest and most generous of those who try to be accurate begin to be miffed, as it, no matter how beautiful your item is, does lessen the value of all the research and hard work they've done in the eyes of the largely undiscerning public, who usually give most attention and appreciation to the thing most appealing to the modern eye, not necessarily the most correct one. See the above point.

- You will never really experience what a historic fashion feels like unless you actually wear it: that you use the right materials, the right cut, and combine the garments (all layers) in the proper way is crucial. That experience will advance your understanding of how it felt to live during a certain time: how people moved, sat, what posture was desired etc. It will also deepen your knowledge of why all those layers where used.

Jørgen Roed, "Haven med den gamle døbefont" 
("The garden with the old babtismal font"), 1850.

- Doing it wrong may not only be unsightly, it can also be uncomfortable or even dangerous; a wool/polyester blend coat getting too close to an open flame and melting into your skin; heavy petticoats without stays or corset to take the weight of your waist and hips; man made fabrics getting too hot in summer or too cold in winter; the wrong hairstyle throwing of the delicate balance of a fashionable look; a bosom unsuported by stays or corset making the prettiest dress look frumpy.

- You’ll save both time and money doing it right, as many beginners want to upgrade after a year or two anyway. Invest time in researching now, and save time and money redoing everything later. Mind, research is never completed, and you’ll always find something or other in your wardrobe that needs changing….

- The resale value on good, period accurate items are reasonably high, if you decide you don’t like the hobby, the period or just want to have a new something.

- It’s fun! It’s an interactive way to learn history, it's creative and will teach you new skills, and perfect the ones you already have. While spending time browsing blogs, forums and homepages you’ll get new friends all over the world, as interested in this as you are. The knowledge in the collective hive-mind of living historians and historical costumiers in the world is vast and ever increasing. Not taking part is missing out on a lot of knowledge and well needed help.

EDIT 2015-05-12
Those of us who have gained some little – or a lot of - knowledge of a certain period will do well to remember that we were once new too. We’ve made mistakes. We still have lots of things to learn, and that is a humbling thought. Our will to help others improve should never lead us to be unkind, snarky or condescending. Openness, gentleness and a willingness to hear what the other comes from will be a lot more effective in showing them what there is to gain from historical accuracy, as well as lifting both them and ourselves up.

EDIT 2015-08-07
Those of you that are new to historical costuming: don't be afraid, you can do this! I have seen quite a few people who, with the help, advice and cheering from others, achieved really good outfits on their first tries. (I wasn't one of them, having no one to ask for advice, and mostly outdated library books for reference.) It's all about willingness and determination, and being humble enough to ask for, and accept, help. Yes, there is the odd person that is unpleasant. I'm sorry if you encountered (or will encounter) one of them. Try to brush of whatever acid comment they dropped on you, and move on. Don't let them get you down. I believe in you. Getting dressed up at all is more than most people do for an event, so one point to you for even getting started! 

I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons why period correctness matter and I want to find as many as possible. Please share your thoughts on the subject, be they continuations of mine or something completely different!

Saturday 23 November 2013

A Little Announcement

At least one of you guessed that the indisposition and weight gain I mentioned in my last post had the same origin.  It is indeed so; if all goes well we will receive a new little member to our family in early June.

The gingerbread family is of my own making. We thought it would 
be a fun way to announce, and in keeping with the upcoming season.

I’ve felt quite ill for the past two months, worse than I did with B. It’s slowly getting better now though. I’m praying for an easier delivery than last time, and as sweet, healthy and clever a child as little B is, but in it's own way. I’m very much looking forward to having a new little baby again, though I find my almost two year-old as wonderful as any child could hope to be. He’s developing new skills and making new discoveries daily, and has such funny little ways and habits. Each age has its charm, and that is as it should be. 

Friday 22 November 2013

Mid 19th Century Quilted Petticoat

I apologise for the long absence, I’ve not been feeling my best lately, and most of the little energy I’ve had has been spent on getting the daily housework and packing for our upcoming move done, so not that much sewing. As I have a mid 19th century sewing demo coming up at the beginning of December however, I decided I needed a quilted petticoat to wear under the insanely pieced dress I made for HSF challenge # 10, Literature. Such petticoats were called stubb in Sweden at the time.

The petticoat is mostly based off of this one from Nordiska Museet.

It’s dated to the 1860’s, as it’s machine sewn, but its mint quality is thought to originate in it being made to an earlier style, so that it went completely out of fashion soon after being made. That would put it in the late 1860’s, but in the style of five or ten years earlier. Must have been vexing for the person who made it, and never got any use from her labours, but it’s good for me. Quilted petticoats didn’t go out of use though; they just got a more A-line look as the century wore on, instead of the tea cosy one of the mid century. This petticoat is all in home woven cotton. What was used for batting is unstated, but wool or cotton is most likely.  

I didn’t mean my petticoat to be an exact replica (that would be difficult without examining the piece in person), just inspired by the one above. I’ve been looking at pictures of other quilted petticoats as well. My fabrics are also cotton, but the outer one doesn’t have the same kind of check as the original, and the lining is white instead of grey. The original measured 79 cm long and 200 cm wide at the hem. Mine is slightly shorter (almost too short) with 70 cm in front and 73 in back (to keep it balanced) and 210 cm wide at the hem.

 It has a cotton batting. I used materials I had in my stash, so at this time its cost me nothing but the work.

The batting end just before the skirt is attached to the yoke, so as not to add bulk. The original closed by a hook and eye, but I like my petticoats to be flexible in waist sizes, so I put in a drawstring at the top. 

The petticoat is slightly too wide in the waist for a normally sized me, and still have a little to give, though I’ve gained some weight lately. I push the gathers to the back, to add a little extra oomph there.

I decided to hand sew my petticoat, as I’m aiming for a slightly earlier period, and also prefer quilting (and indeed sewing in general) by hand. The checked fabric made it really easy to do the quilting, as I could just follow the pattern. The quilting was fun, but the assembling was not: I was very glad to be done with it. I’m also very happy with the result. It gives my skirts great poof, and, somewhat similar to a crinoline, it stands out from the body enough to allow rather free movement of the legs. Here I wear the dress with just the quilted petticoat and a plain linen one. If you want to compare you can follow the link to the challenge # 10 dress above.

As this challenge was about gratitude I’ll mention a few people and institutions: First my Mum, who taught me to sew when I was a very stubborn little girl, who wanted to do things my own way. She also gave me the checked fabric years ago.
Second, I’m grateful to my husband, who is very accepting and supportive of my hobby: when I discovered I’d made a mistake with the quilting, and was choosing between unpicking a lot of seams and remake it the proper way, or just ignore it and go on, he said to redo it, as I’d always be annoyed by it if I didn’t. How very true.
Third, I’m grateful that some people in the past understood the value of preserving even ordinary peoples clothing for future generations.
Fourth, Emma Frost, who sent me some pictures of an original she’d examined. Very helpful indeed! 
And last, but certainly not least, I’m grateful for all the museums that put up their collections on the internet, thus enabling us who make historic clothing to do a lot of our research from the comfort of our homes, when not having the opportunity to study old pieces of clothing in person.

The Challenge: # 23 Gratitude
Fabric: Checked cotton and white cotton.
Pattern: None, it’s based on pictures and measurements of originals.
Year: Ca. 1840 to 1865-ish.
Notions: Cotton thread, cotton batting and cotton tape, all from stash.
How historically accurate is it? Pretty much; the cut is period, and it is hand sewn with period stitches, using cotton thread. I’ve never examined a quilted petticoat in person though, so some of the stitches might not have been used where I put them. There is always room for improvement. The kind of check used for it does exist in some extant period clothing, but I’ve never seen it in a quilted petticoat.
Hours to complete: Say 19, including two or three of having to unpick stitches and redo part of the quilting…
First worn: For the pictures, and then hopefully at the beginning of December.
Total cost: None but time.

Friday 27 September 2013

Hobbit Outfit - Part Two: The Bodice

As I wrote in my last post I finished the bodice for my Hobbit outfit last week. I’m tolerably satisfied with it, though I will make a change or two on the next one (lowering the neckline a tad in front, taking it in more so the back doesn't meet). I’ll also add some more boning in the back of this one, as it wrinkles in an unsightly way. I might very likely have made it slightly too long, and must remedy that at some point. 

I obviously won't wear a tricot shirt with the finished costume...

I wanted to go for classic Hobbit colours, green and yellow, but as blue is my favourite colour, I wanted that as well. All theese colours also look good with the skirt fabric. The bodice is made from five pieces: two in the back, two side-front pieces (all from herringbone woven cotton) and one centre front piece in a contrasting cotton fabric. That is decorted with a lattice from finger looped braids. All the sahaping of the bodice are in the seams, so no darts.

It’s lined and interlined with a medium weight, checked cotton fabric that can be glimpsed in the top of the above picture. The lining, interlining and fashion fabric are treated as one when stitched together. The bodice is boned in the back on each side of the hand sewn eyelets, at the sides, and at regular intervals on the centre front panel. The bodice is bound with straight strips of linen, and is laced up the back with cotton tape – the colour in this picture is not at all representative of the real one.

Most of the sewing on the bodice is done by hand, as I doubt Hobbits had sewing machines: “They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-billows, a water-mill, or a hand loom, though they were skilful with tools.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Prologue I - Concerning Hobbits). Only some of the interior seams, that will never show, are machine sewn. 

All of the materials but the tape for lacing is taken from my stash, which is always nice. As for the rest of the costume, the first skirt is mostly done; I’m currently weaving tapes to tie it with, and when they’re attached the skirt will be ready to wear.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

A Hobbit Lunch

This past Sunday, 22 September, was Bilbo’s and Frodo’s birthday, now more commonly known as Hobbit Day. I wanted to have a second breakfast party to celebrate - well, I wanted a Hobbit second breakfast and this was a good excuse…  Now, we always go to church on Sundays, so it wasn’t a good day. Tobias and I decided to have it on 21 September instead, which is not a bad day either, as The Hobbit, or There and Back Again was published on that date in 1937. 

Plums, scones and pickled gherkin.

We invited some friends, two families with one little child each, but due to other commitments amongst all, we decided to make it a lunch instead, which also worked better with all our young children’s nap times.

Anders and his family. Our camera didn’t co-operate, so nearly all pictures are from them. 
I’m very grateful, as this post would otherwise have been very dull.

My Hobbit bodice was finished, and the skirt was almost done as well, but not enough for them to be worn. We all improvised Hobbit-y clothing (I wore my livkjol), and looked rather well. 

Tobias and I looking very tired: he’d been helping a friend to 
move all the coming winter’s wood supply before lunch, and I’d been 
whirling around trying to finish the last food and make everything look nice.

My hair turned out in quite satisfactory curls (except for the hair in front), and for me, who have very straight hair, usually refusing all sorts of attempts to be curled, that’s saying something.

An attempt at Hobbit hair.
The only picture I've taken, and you might 
tell from the quality our camera is on it's last legs.

The party was Dutch treat, and we all made food we thought might suit a Hobbit lunch table. I made a field mushroom pie (with tomato, sweet pepper, leek and cream), rösti/hashed brown potatoes, some nicely decorated carrot bread and small cookies, and provided butter, whipped cream and raspberry cordial.

Carrot bread.

The others brought apple pie, three different kinds of sausages, jams and jellies, mustard, butter fried chanterelles with shallots, apples, plums, tomatoes, sweet scones, home made apple juice, cheese, dried bacon rand and pickled gherkin. 

Sausages and cheese.

The table groaned, and we almost did the same after the meal was finished.

In the foreground: home made apple juice, 
mustard, mushroom pie, apples and rösti.

It was a delightful little party, of a kind that we’re sure to host again. The only thing that I found to complain about was that it’s really too late in the year to go barefoot - it was rather chilly. 

The second mushroom dish; butter fried chanterelles with shallots.
You can't have a Hobbit party without mushrooms. 

I guess we just have to arrange a Lithe party. Lithe is the three Summer days outside the Shire calendar between the months of June and July, that were - together with the two Yule days between December and January - the “chief holidays and times of feasting” (The Return of the King, appendix D), an altogether much pleasanter time of year to go barefoot here in the North, and with the added advantage of being able to have it outside, which would be a much more suitable location than our flat.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Hobbit Outfit - Part One

I love Tolkien’s history and stories of Middle-earth, and since I saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy I’ve wanted a hobbit outfit. I made one try at it many years ago, but never finished – I was then too busy making pretty dresses and a coat with wide, hanging sleeves, inspired by Elvish and Rohirrim clothing. But I feel like a Hobbit at heart (and certainly look more like a Hobbit than an Elf...), much preferring a quiet life at home - sewing, baking, reading and spending time with my family - than going abroad seeking adventure and renown. A Hobbit hole would be the most lovely home imaginable.

For the past year or something I’ve been itching to make a Hobbit outfit, drawing many different designs, but have had too many other projects to work on to do this as well. But enough is enough – last week I finally began my outfit.

I’m basing it on the costumes in the "The Lord of the Rings" movies, as I loved them from the first glimpse. This is the design I’m going for this time (I have several others that I hope will some day be made up), based on materials I had at home. I’ve changed the colour of the binding, and I’m not quite sure what to make a shift of just yet, but other than that, this is pretty much what it will look like:

This is the first “mood board” of the fabrics I’ll be using, made the same day I did the drawing above. The checked fabric will be a skirt; the materials at the top are currently being made up into a bodice, with the blue herringbone as the main bodice, the green as the front panel, but with mustard coloured linen as binding instead of the green ribbon. I also made finger loop braids from cotton weaving yarn.

The braids are sewn on the front panel of the bodice in a lattice pattern – I love those. Here’s a close-up: 

I still have quite a lot to do on this outfit, but so far it's looking good enough. Yellows and oranges are not colours I generally like, or wear, but they are kind of Hobbit-y, so it'll have to do...

This costume is not copied from any one in the movies, for, beautiful as cosplays or movie reproductions often are, they loose their charm after seeing the same outfit in many different versions (I don’t know how many Arwen and Èowyn dresses I’ve seen, or how many Frodo/Sam/Merry/Pippin/Rosie Cotton-costumes for that matter. Now, not surprisingly, there seem to be a lot of Dwarf costumes showing up, and not so few cosplays of Thranduil.) I prefer seeing original Middle-earth costumes, influenced by the books and movies. I'm sure I can’t be the only one – there are a lot of nerds out there – so I talked to Sarah Jane about it. Her beautiful Hobbit outfit has been very inspiring, and not helping at all in my trying not to make an outfit for myself. We soon started a facebook group called “Taylors and Seamstresses of Middle Earth”. Anyone interested in making LotR costumes inspired by the cultures, but not copied straight of off movie costumes, are more than welcome to join the group. I dearly hope to see a Dwarf woman’s costume made up, beard and all…

Thursday 5 September 2013

Söderköpings Gästabud; a Medieval Fair

Last Saturday we visited the medieval fair in Söderköping. We were not there as a group (there being an event in Ronneburg, Germany, at the same time, which most members attended), but several members of Albrecht’s Bössor met there anyway. Two of them stayed the night, as they had a bit to travel. From one of them, Lisa, who’s a goldsmith, I received six pins to hold my veils – such a lovely gift; I had just been contemplating getting new ones.

We all wore our late 14th century clothes, of course. Little B got to wear his shoes for the first time, and they worked quite well. He was so adorable, and we were stopped and asked for pictures several times. The marketplace was round an old church, which is situated by a creak with deep, steep banks. It was charming (in a “most-things-aren’t-historic-at-all-but-the-atmosphere-is-nice” kind of way), but we had to keep a close eye on B so he wouldn’t get to close to the water, or get lost in the crowd. 

 The pilgrim's satchel I made proved to be exeedingly practical - 
it could hold much more than you'd think when looking at it.  
It was also good to hang the baby sling from, when not in use...

A couple of things made an impression on me that I don’t get often enough when doing living history. First I was visiting the church, and inside four women where singing religious music in Latin, in several parts. The music was beautiful, and it was ringing and echoing from the high vaults. I got a fleeting impression of what it could have been like to enter a church in medieval times, and hear music of a beauty not often met with in a time with no way to record and replay it. It must have been like entering a small piece of Heaven. 

The other thing happened when we were walking along the street, and were met by close to a dozen people on horseback. Though their fine clothes were not so much medieval as fantasy, I still felt almost intimidated by them, being physically so high above me, and riding with such a natural assurance of the fact that everyone would give way to them, as if they were truly in a different league than me and my small family, walking in the dirt left by their horses. I never have been too impressed by mounted knights at fairs before (some of them being a bit of a joke to the serious living historians, with knitted mail and polyester crushed velvet or cotton sheeting clothing), but now I wondered how it would have felt to meet a group of the high and the mighty in a time when you were more or less at their mercy. 

 I tucked the skirt of my overdress in the belt worn between the layers,
to make it easier to walk. Overly long skirts may have been fashionable, 
but they're not practical when having little children.

I felt quite humbled – I have hardly begun to understand the life and feelings of these people, my ancestors, at all. Sure, I try to make items as close as possible to those they might have used, but that is only to scratch the surface of history. It was a very welcome experience, and one I hope I can build and deepen my living history on.

Saturday 31 August 2013

Heathen Peas - 14th Century Sweets

Tobias and I had a sort of lecture, for want of a better word, in our church last Wednesday, on the 14th century, as there is a medieval fair in a neighbouring community this weekend, which many attend. To add interest we served “Heidenische Erweiz”, Heathen Peas, based on Peter’s interpretation of a German mid 14th century recipe - go there for more information.

"If you would like to make peas from Bohemia, take almond kernels 
and beat them very small and mix with a third as much honey. 
and mix well with good spice, so it is at its best. 
this food can you give cold or warm."

I made some slight alterations to the recipe. As I was tired and running out of time, I used almond meal instead of grinding almonds myself. I suppose the meal was a bit finer and drier than freshly ground almonds would have been, so I had to add a bit more honey than the recipe said. It turned out very well indeed, I think. I took a lesser amount of black pepper than of ginger, and it seemed to be a good mix – even little B loved it.

I spread the hot mixture on an oven paper and let cool. 

I had planned to do the simple version, and just cut squares, but I don’t think I’d boiled the mixture long enough, so it was still rather sticky. I decided to make “peas” from the soft mixture after all. To prevent them from sticking to each other I rolled them in almond meal. It both looked and tasted very nice, and was quite popular at the lecture.

 So there you go, 14th century sweets.