Thursday, April 24, 2014

Another Endeavor (in which Our Heroine expands her horizons)

I must be significantly braver than I was last year..  or at least (more than) a little crazier.

Last year the Historical Sew Fortnightly was too daunting to come anywhere near completing.

This year, I started out planning to do every other HSF challenge.

Somehow that became every challenge.

And now...  heaven help me...  I'm thinking about doing the Historical Food Fortnightly as well. The link explains it better, but in a nut shell it's a spin off of the Historical Sew Fortnightly in which themes are presented every fortnight and you research and make a recipe meeting the theme from a period of your choice (pre-1960).

I've done some historical cooking as far back as childhood.  The city I grew up in had "The Old Stone House" which was built in 1838 and was kept as a museum by the local historical society.  

In the summers they had a day camp for kids centered around the house and other early 19th century activities. Everyone took a "pioneer name"  (mine was Millicent) and we learned how to make bannock on the fire in the kitchen of the house, learned about the herbs in the garden, and how to make things like soap and butter and kites and homemade ice cream.  

I also dabbled in historical cooking during my time in the SCA.  Friends that have known me long enough will remember the great disaster of the apple whiskey cake in which the recipe read "glass of whiskey" and I naively obliged..  not with the shot glass the recipe actually called for..  but with a 16 ounce glass that I normally used for diet coke.

But it was the "pre-1960" that really sealed the deal.  I am alternately fascinated and horrified by 1950s cuisine.  The rise of convenience foods. The ubiquitous jello salads.  The use of spam. The (more than) vaguely obscene rocket salad from the Better Crocker Kid's Cookbook from my childhood.  

And ironically enough, I just bought a lot of 1940s women's magazines on ebay solely because I wanted the single Delineator issue that was in the lot.  So I have ready reference material on hand.

Even better, we generally get together at a friends on weekends and each of us brings something to share.  This provides a justification for experimenting and a captive willing audience.  The only thing I don't really have is time..  and really, who ever has enough time anyway? (I am promising myself that researching and making a recipe will take less time than sewing a challenge entry..  we shall see just how delusional I am.. :)  )

So while other people may be translating medieval recipes from the original language for the Food Fortnightly, or making ornate eighteenth century dishes, I will be happily amusing myself in the early 20th century, pondering spaghetti stuffed peppers and finding out just how many recipes for jello salad actually exist.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sewing Blues (in which our Heroine raises her spirits with shopping)

It's been a rather unfulfilling week sewing wise.  My hat for the HSF challenge was well received, but my current primary project is self-fitting a mockup for my 1880s corset and that is going every bit as frustratingly as I expected. My other projects are a mockup of a 1940s dress for the Black and White Challenge and finishing a pair of Victorian drawers for the UFO challenge but I'm not likely to have anything complete to post about this week, sadly.

I did, however, treat myself to some internet shopping.  I've been on an old magazine binge lately and have picked up some reasonably priced copies of 1890s-1910s issues of The Delineator on ebay.  I've also found a few 1920s fashion magazines online, so I started a "Research" page for the blog, in case these finds are useful for someone else.  I'm trying to find an efficient and economical method to digitize my Delineator issues; if I can, I'll post those for general reference as well.  I also started a "Fabric and Notions" and a "Tutorials" page, mostly to keep good info I find on my frequent Internet dives from getting lost in my bookmarks folders.  These are still very much works in progress, but perhaps they'll be helpful for someone besides me.

I also bought some Folkwear patterns and hope to have some more pleasant projects once I get the corset and the 40s dress completed.

Folkwear patterns.  I loved them in college.  Victorian, retro, ethnic, they all seemed a little magical and could be made from luscious fabrics that I desperately wanted to play with, but couldn't afford as a college student. (I've been battling my fabric addiction all my life.)

In my ideal world, I would have wandered campus in nothing but garments I'd made from folkwear patterns.  A friend of mine, Sarah, had actually made several folkwear skirts and shirts and I have to admit I was happily envious of her. But back in the dark ages when I went to college, even though I was far skinnier then than I am now,  Folkwear never made patterns in my size. (and, oddly enough,  it never occurred me to scale them up to fit)

So I really stopped looking at Folkwear for patterns and was almost surprised to find them still around when I started doing Japanese costuming a few years ago. For some reason, I found myself on the Folkwear site this week and, lo and behold, some of their newer patterns were sized up to a 3X! Of course, I had to buy...  several.  (after all, with the shipping they're charging, why pay shipping more than once!)

The one I think I'm most excited about is the 1918 Armistice blouse. I'm already envisioning ecru handkerchief linen and some of my antique lace collection for trims and perhaps lace insertion. Now I just have to get some of the less amusing projects completed!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

HSF #7 Tops and Toes (or Finishing the Hat)

This is the saga of my hat for Historical Sewing's 1880s bustle hat class.  This was a buckram frame hat using Truly Victorian's TV550 pattern.  Nothing is ever simple for me *sigh* and the first thing that I had to do upon starting this project was size the pattern up for my 24" circumference head.  I know this style is supposed to be a "perch" hat, but I also wanted it to be in proportion to my head.   Jay did some calculations and determined that I needed to size things up to 106% so I scanned in the pattern pieces (or what parts of them would fit in our scanner), taped together the pieces parts and did a mock up in butcher's paper.  
 So far, so good!

Sam supervising the laying out on the buckram

 The wire went on the buckram easily enough but I glued the flannel on and the bias tape around the edge. The glue did not want to come out of the bottle, so I got a small paint brush that I'd bought in case I was going to add metallic paint to the 1920s shoes and used the brush for this step.  This was a big mistake.  Huge. I should not be trusted with glue or paint (or home hair dye).  Despite my best intentions, I end up like a 4 year old finger painting.  I was decidedly unthrilled with the end result...  even though the fashion fabric would be covering it.

 Cutting out the fashion fabric.

90% of this was hand work and pushing the needle through crown buckram and pulling it out with pliers aggravated my carpal tunnel something fierce. Top that off with the brim opening being about 3/8" too large for the crown all around and I had to take a week's hiatus on the project.  At that point I was pretty sure I was never going to make another hat again in my life.

But the week's rest for my wrist, a wrist brace (and some good advice from one of my classmates, who is a nurse, on taking ibuprofen proactively to reduce the inflammation)  and I was back at it.  This time, the brim went together much tidier and fit the crown perfectly. Attaching brim to crown was no problem whatsoever and I found myself with a finished -albeit un-decorated - hat.

One hat. Desperately seeking trim

I'd known more or less what I wanted to do from the beginning of the class.  Despite the 1880s being a period of "more is not enough" trim wise, I was drawn to the slightly more austere style of hats like these.

Mrs Harris from

c. 1885 from

 And still being in the throes of my black and white stripe addiction, of course, there would be striped ribbon. I may have *blush* even chosen the blue fabric because it would set off the black and white stripes so well.   The rhinestone buckle was a glorious find in my favorite local fabric store for $3.00. The ribbon itself is frankenstein-ed by stitching 2 pieces of the black and white striped ribbon together lengthwise and then edging each side with a narrower piece of black grosgrain.

The finished hat

All in all, I am pleased with the result and will probably end up making more buckram framed hats in the future, despite all my swearing to the contrary.

The challenge:  #7  Tops and Toes

Fabric: Silk dupioni, grosgrain ribbon, crown buckram, flannel (for the mulling)

Pattern: Truly Victorian TV550 1880s Buckram frame hat

Year: 1880s

Notions: millinery wire, millinery needles, bias tape

How historically accurate is it?  I honestly haven't researched if they had buckram framed hats in the 1880s.  I did do a good bit of research to determine trimming that felt period appropriate.

Hours to complete:  far too many!

First worn:  I don't even have an 1880s dress to wear this with, but it was still a fun project

Total cost:  approx $45 USD ($22 for a basic millinery kit from Judith M Millinery Supply. $10 for half a yard of crown buckram (also from Judith M), $11.99 for a yard of silk, $2.50 for a yard of flannel.  Pattern, ribbon and feathers were from stash)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tissot's The Fireplace (or: and I thought I was obsessed with stripes!)

American Duchess posted this today and I am in love!  At last, a woman that can fully appreciate my obsession with stripes!  And despite my carpal tunnel screaming "noooooo!" I am really thinking that I need to make her hat.  Add this to the ever growing pile of dream projects.

An Afternoon Outing in Costume (In which our heroine has a Very Good Hair Day)

Yesterday, we did an afternoon out in costume to a local Sherlock Holmes convention. While we weren't hard core Sherlock Holmes fans (unless it's the new BBC Sherlock) it seemed like a good excuse to get dressed up and try out some new outfits.

This is Jay in the vest I made him for HSF#5 and a frock coat we got on the web. My men's tailoring skills are minimal and until I get my skills honed more (so many projects, so little time!) we do buy a decent amount of his stuff.  Having a theatrical background in costuming, I've always held that the true art of the costumer is the final look:head to toe and all methods are fair in getting to that point, be it buy, build or borrow. (those of you that have known me long enough may recognize the walking stick from my LARP days, years ago.  It's been travelling with me since then and began life as a doorknob and a wooden dowel)

He's been growing his hair long to be able to pull it back for a ballroom competition and based on that hair, I have visions of a Young Prince Vlad cosplay for DragonCon dancing in my head now

  Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

For me,  I've laughingly said more than once that this is just going to be a year of foundations for me..  until I get corsets, petticoats, hoops, panniers etc. done, there's really no sense in making any outer garments for any era pre-1920s..   But I also don't want to forgo outings in costume while I (slowly) get my foundations made. Nor do I want to rush slapdash through my foundations and be unhappy with the end result.  So yesterday's outfit was a mix of off the rack and made by me.  One of the women in my Victorian Undergarments class had a similar situation where she needed something fast for an event and said that she had ordered from Gentlemen's Emporium and was generally pleased by their quality (for a "costume house").  So when we bought Jay a shirt with the detachable collar, I picked up the black and white striped shirtwaist.  (yes, I am still going through this fascination with black and white stripes)

The hat was from HSF#1 Make Do and Mend and the 2 petticoats I'd made since the beginning of the year filled out the skirt nicely.   I was especially pleased with how my hair came out.  And more importantly, how manageable the style was to do.  I'd recommend it to anyone that doesn't have an aversion to having a decent amount of styling product in their hair.  

I bought a rat from Era Hairpieces  There is a DIY tutorial at The Costumer's Manifesto but I found the rat I purchased to be far superior to the one I made.

Comb your hair "Cousin It" style over your face, put the rat on top like a crown, then start wrapping your hair up over the rat and tucking it in. Hairspray to taste.  (I live by Kenra 25 Volumizing spray.  It is pretty much the only thing that works on my hair)  It took me under 10 minutes.  And I wish I'd taken more pictures,  but at the time I wasn't thinking about blogging about it.

  • My hair is fine and straight but there is a lot of it.  It just doesn't want to *do* much without some serious coaxing (hence the styling products)  I've seen women with curly hair do this style and it was breathtakingly lovely.
  • My normal hairstyle currently just above the shoulder with a few long layers in it.  Not sure how it would work for shorter hair, especially with lots of layers.
  • I'd washed my hair the day before, not that morning and my normal routine includes Living Proof Style Extender (this stuff is amazing for making recalcitrant hair behave!), Bumble and Bumble's Thickening Spray and Living Proof Root Boost before blow drying. I'd also freshened the roots with some Oscar Blandi dry shampoo that morning when I got up.  
  • Historically, the Victorian/Edwardian women didn't wash their hair daily like we do now.  So trying to do some of the elaborate period styles with squeaky clean hair is starting off at a serious disadvantage.  I am anything but a trained hair stylist.  However, the difference in what I can manage with my hair with styling product in it and what I can manage without is huge! If you are styling product adverse, the Pragmatic Costumer (whose blog I love!) has a tutorial on a Gibson Girl style sans product.
Best of all, I took my hat off as we were leaving the con and looked in the car window and I had absolutely no hat hair whatsoever.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Serendipity Strikes Again!

Now that the shoes were done, I settled in to focus on my much delayed hat for the 1880's bustle hat class I was taking.  Those of you following along at home may say...  but you don't even have an 1880's dress.  Which is entirely true.  But I might have one at some point.  There is a class this summer on making one that I have been debating on taking.  But I mostly took the class to get back into millinery.

I loved doing millinery in college.  I still have one of the hats I made back then and its hung on the wall of every bedroom I've had for over 20 years.

While it was technically made for a production of Ah Wilderness! it was also the end project for a millinery tutorial I was taking and my ever generous professor dubbed it classwork and therefore mine rather than theatre stock when the production was over.  When I signed up for Bustle Hat class this winter, I had visions dancing in my head of all the wonderful hats I would make now that I was taking up millinery again.  And I have a 24" circumference head so doing it myself was pretty much the only way to find hats that fit me.

The instructor for my current class was wonderful (I've never taken a class from Historical Sewing that I didn't enjoy), I loved the people in the class, I loved seeing their hats come together. But this time around, millinery just wasn't fun for me.  I'm discovering I have carpal tunnel or arthritis in the thumb and wrist of my left hand (and I am left handed) and all the pushing and pulling of the needle thru the buckram was really aggravating it.  I am determined to finish the hat...  I don't have the space to store a lot of UFOs , but mostly because I'm planning on it being my HSF #7 challenge. However, I am probably not going to make another buckram frame hat in the immediate future.  Which posed a problem, because I had been planning on making a big Titanic era hat with black and white striped fabric roses on it for the Black and White challenge in May.

Something along the lines of the flowers from center hat combined with the size of the hat on the left (image originally from

So I was in need of an idea for the Black and White challenge.  My own personal parameters for the HSF challenges are that a challenge entry either has to really excite me (the 1920s rhinestone heeled shoes), or be something I need/be something I have a decent chance at actually wearing.

I'd brainstormed with Jay but the best thing that came out of that was a pair of black and white spats, which weren't a terribly exciting project.

Then a series of serendipitous and mostly unrelated events occurred.
1) I found a charming retro looking book patterened silk at my favorite fabric store, but didn't buy it because I didn't have any conceivable use for it and had spent a LOT of money on fabric recently.
2) They announced another Speakeasy Electro Swing Atlanta happening in May (on my birthday weekend!)
3) I ran into the lovely proprietress of ArchiteuthisHats on a 1920s-30s group I joined on Facebook

This got me to thinking.  I had an absolutely kick-ass hat that I wore to the swing dance at AnachroCon with a decidedly subpar pseudo-40s dress from Lands End.

My hat from ArchiteuthisHats 

If there was going to be another Electro Swing Night then I would really need something better to wear.  Something cool in both senses of the word.  Something Hmm  that book patterned silk had been black and white, hadn't it?  And pinball machine lights and bells went off in my head.   Best of all, the Electro Swing Night was 5 days before the challenge was due so the timing was just about perfect.

So it was back to the fabric store again and serendipity was still with me.  Someone had clearly bought most of the bolt since I was last there and the clerk, eyeballing it, told me that there wouldn't be enough. But the fates proved him wrong and after he measured it all out, darned if there wasn't exactly the amount I needed left.  It was like it was waiting for me.  And I have the mockup of a 40s dress I started pre-AnachroCon but tabled due to time.

My fabulous book patterened silk

I also picked up some luscious black silk charmuse for a retro slip to go under the dress. Both fabrics are currently sitting in my studio taunting me to finish the darned bustle hat (and then the UFO challenge) so I can start playing with them!  Oh and my Victorian Corset class is starting so I need to devote time to that too.  All in all, its looking to be a busy spring!