Monday 25 July 2016

A Classic Witch Hat in Green Wool

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but, well, things happened. I’ll post it now anyway, as I’m emotionally recovered enough to begin to find my usual pursuits interesting again.

I’ve always been a master of beginning new projects, but not as good at finishing them. I have worked hard at fixing this flaw of character, and I’m getting better. Still, I sometimes stumble on sewing projects that have been in the Limbo of Unfinished Objects for years and years. One such I now saved from its sad state. I had, when I was in my very early 20s, made what I intended to be a 16th Century German flat hat. It didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, so a few years later, after having seen the wonderful scene of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I cut out pieces to make the crown of a witch hat, intending the failed flat hat to become the brim. And then life distracted me.

But now that witch hat is done! It took only a couple of days’ worth of sewing now and then to finish it, using only stash materials. It’s made from a beautiful deep green wool, stiffened with ironed on interfacing. It’s lined with a cotton fabric checked in white and greens. 

The brim is decorated with quilting in a swirling pattern, which also adds stability. A wire (two overlapping wires actually – I didn’t have one long enough) stiffens the edge of the brim. 

The crown is stitched down in permanent creases, to give it that iconic witchy look. It’s decorated with a strip of lighter green wool and a simple buckle. I had hoped to trim it with plumes and feathers for the photo shoot, but they all seemed to have got lost in my stash. Ah well. A couple of ostrich feathers fell out of my feather duster when the kids were playing with it a week or so later, so I took them to temporarily trim the hat with for an additional photo. Sadly, the hat came out just a bit too small, so I’m going to sell it on, and let the new owner add trim, if they wish it. 

This was such a fun project, and I’d love to make more hats for witches and wizards. They would look great for our annual Harry Potter Halloween party. Only problem will be to fit the making of them in between everything else… The boys have already requested wizard’s hats for their dress up box – they loved wearing this one. But any hats I make for them will be in a simpler, more easily washed, materials.

Saturday 16 July 2016

A Pregnancy Remembrance Pendant

I have always turned to crafts when I’ve felt down for whatever reason – well, when I’m happy too, but crafting somehow acts in a healing way for me. Usually it's something textile, but this time I felt like making a thing I could wear that let me speak my loss without being too obvious or in-your-face. I looked online for inspiration and then looked through my rather limited stash of jewellery making supplies.

This is what I made: a simple pendant (jewellery making is not my forte) with a blue glass bead for each of my sons, and a white glass bead for the unknown little one that I’d already made room for in my heart but never got to hold. It’s discreet enough not to cause comment, but it means something to me, and I felt good while making it. 

Friday 15 July 2016


Yesterday I wrote this on my Facebook page, but thought I'd share it here as well so that the lack of baby posts in future will not cause comment.

Last night I suffered a miscarriage that ended with me being rushed off to theatre to stop a very heavy bleeding. I had two units of blood during the night, and though I feel like if I have been punched all over and is very tired and rather weak, I'm physically mostly all right now, considering the circumstances. We are of course very sad that this happened, and I've had episodes of crying between periods of calm. I was so looking forward to this baby, and had just started to feel safe from miscarriage. I was in week 13+5.

At the same time I feel grateful. Grateful for modern medicine that made it possible for me to come home to my family again - a hundred years ago, or in some other parts of today's world, I would have died.
Grateful for in-laws that jumped in the car to come to our aid the moment they heard what was going on, and stayed and helped with the children for a night and a day.
Grateful for the friend that showed up after just a few minutes to drive me to the hospital, when Tobias had to stay with the children until relieved by the babysitters, and stayed with me until I was rolled into theatre.
Grateful for the managers at Tobias' work, that without hesitation gave him two days paid leave to care for me and the children.
Grateful for the friends that have dropped off flowers, dinners, chocolate, condolences, offers and promises of further help and other nice things.
Grateful for my husband, so supporting, loving, comforting and helpful, even in his own fog of tiredness and sadness.
Grateful that I have two beautiful children, to make me smile and feel happiness in spite of my grief.

Still, I hope that I never have to experience this again. Now, chocolate. Lots of it.

Saturday 9 July 2016

My Old New Sewing Machine

I’ve mentioned that my sewing machine died so many times these past months, that I thought I’d let you know that I have a new one! Well, I’ve actually had it for several years, as my parents gave it to me, and my Gran had given it to them before, and she’d got it from an aunt or something… As you can guess it’s not exactly new in any sense of the word. It’s a Singer treadle from 1924 by the serial number, and though it hasn’t been in use for a very long time, it only took a new driving belt and some oiling to make it run perfectly.

 I actually love sewing on this machine much more than I’ve ever done with any electrical machine I ever tried. True, it only sews straight seams, but I can work around that problem. It comes with the instruction manual, several types of presser foots (including ruffler, binder and tucker) that I have to learn, and even a one year repair guarantee slip, dated 1 September 1936, that I suppose was included when it was bought – family history claims it came into the family around that time.

Sewing on a treadle is a bit different from sewing on an electrical machine, but I find that in some ways – like speed - I have more control with the treadle, and the other things, like coordinating the turning of the balance wheel with starting to treadle, are soon learned. I’ve started sewing a patchwork quilt for the new baby, and I sat at the machine for much longer than I would have had the patience for with an electrical machine. The breaking of my old Husqvarna, which I never really got along with, might have been a blessing in disguise.

Friday 8 July 2016

1840s Cap Lace Trimmed and Starched

Almost six years ago I experimented with making an 1840s woman’s cap, and the result turned out quite well. I’ve since used the same pattern as a base for a more posh cap. This is a picture of when I'd first made it - look how young I was.

A while ago I thought that I’d push that first one, which was very plain, up a notch, and started trimming it with narrow cotton lace, taken from a baby sheet and pillow case I picked up at the charity shop. I didn’t want it too fancy; think lower middle class wife and mother.Then, as so often happens, other things got in the way and it lay forgotten in the accessories box, but the other week I finally finished it. Actually it came about because I wanted to take sewing related baby announcement pictures, and needed a pretty project for it. Once I started attaching the lace, I thought I might just as well finish it :) Meanwhile, it took ages for people on Facebook to get the hint in the picture. EDIT: five days after publishing this post I miscarried :'( END OF EDIT

I then starched the cap. Starch does wonders to many historical items of clothing, making them look (and sound - starched petticoats rustle in a special way) much more like their very often starched original counterparts. It takes a bit of time and effort, but is worth it if you want to add that extra little something to your impression. Also, starched items get a protective surface that will make it more difficult for dirt and grime to get hold. Of course, if it’s too wet or humid when you venture outside, the starch will lose its oomph quickly. Here's what my cap looked like before and after starching: all limp before, and holding up well after.

This is how I did the starching:
I used 300 millilitres of water and 1 teaspoon of potato starch. This produce a light starch that I rather like. If you want a stronger starch, add more potato starch.
I put a little bit of the water aside, and brought the rest to the boil in a pot. I then poured the potato starch mixed with the water I’d saved into it, mixing hard to avoid the forming of jelly lumps. I let is boil for a couple of minutes, stirring all the time, and then set it aside to cool.
I took the cap and pot of starch out into the garden, and dunked the cap in the slippery goo until it was saturated.

I wringed it carefully and then smoothed it out as well as I could. I hung it on a line to dry in the wind.

When it began to dry it a slightly stiff, papery feel to it, holding up quite well on its own. 

 After it had dried I ironed it, and it looked beautiful. I look a bit tired though, having pregnancy related iron deficiency.

 While this is a totally lame entry, I treat it as a UFO and submit it just the same, as it will make me feel better – I’ve just managed one other challenge this year.

The Challenge: # 7 Monochrome

Fabric/Materials: Striped cotton (recycled from a worn out blouse) and cotton lace from an old set of baby sheets.

Pattern: My own

Year: 1840s

Notions: Cotton thread

How historically accurate is it? It looks all right, and the techniques I’ve used are documented, but I’ve never had the opportunity to look closer at an original, so… who knows?

Hours to complete: Originally – no idea. Trimming it – an hour or two.

First worn: For the pictures – I need a dress to go with it.

Total cost: The blouse the fabric came from was an old one of mine that wasn’t fit to use any more, so I’ll count that as free. The baby sheet and pillowcase where the lace came from was picked up in a charity shop, so not much. They will likely be used for a 19th century infant’s dress eventually.