Pink! And Historical! And…

Well, everything, really. See, after a hiatus of posting – because writing essays has been more than enough time at the computer for the past few months – I’ve decided to see how many Historical Sew Fortnightly tasks I can tick off with just the one item.

I’m sewing like a mad thing at the moment, trying to get together items for a market stall in a bit less than a month. Items of children’s costume, since I’ve decided that I love sewing for kids. You can do the most over the top, outlandish things, and kids will love it. So, with that in mind, before the big reveal, let me tease a little and tick off a few challenges, however late I’m completing them.

1. Challenge #6 – Fairytale.

256px-Anna_Render

In 1844, the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, The Snow Queen was first published. Earlier this year, a film was released with Disney’s take on the tale. Frozen has since become the favourite movie of every little girl on the planet – or at least it seems that way to anyone who wanders through a kindergarten and hears the spectacular versions of the hit song, Let It Go. I’ve had previous run-ins with Queen Elsa costuming, and with the frantic mothers who have been desperately trying to find a costume for their birthday girl. But this time, I’m attempting Princess Anna instead.

2. Challenge #3 – Pink

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but Anna’s cloak is pink. Or at least magenta. I’m choosing to interpret this as pink. Which leads me to…

3. Challenge #2 – Innovation

Early fabric dyes were created using natural substances. There was a limited range of colours available, and many tended to fade. Science accidentally delivered an alternative when William Henry Perkins was attempting to synthesise quinine, but instead created mauveine, a synthetic dye. This was closely followed by Fuchsine in 1858 or 1859 (sources vary on the date), discovered by Frenchman Francois-Emmanuel Verguin, and, in 1860, Magenta, discovered by Brits Chambers Nicolson and Georges Maule. The colours were a great success, and many variations on the shades have been produced since. I’m using two of these in my cloak.

 

Bouguereau's Psyche, 1892, using magenta for the goddess's cloak.

Bouguereau’s Psyche, 1892, using magenta for the goddess’s cloak.

4. Challenge #10 – Art.

Okay, I know this one’s a stretch, but technically, the creators of the Disney movies are artists. These days they’re digital artists, but the skills are still the same. And given that I’m working off a single image, I figure this will fit. Give me some leeway, here, folks!

And finally…

5. Challenge #15 – The Great Outdoors.

This one is less of a stretch. I’m making a cloak – it’s made for wearing in the great outdoors. And anyone who’s seen the movie knows that Anna acquires the cloak in order to survive the blast of icy weather triggered by her Snow-Queen-sister, Elsa, as she treks to an ice palace to try and talk her down.

 

Wow, 5 challenges in one – better than I thought. So now I’ve covered that off, how am I making a Disney costume that is also historical? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out!

I know the inspiration image is a cloak, with a cape over the top. I’m simplifying things and just making the cape. The design for this is drawn from a pinterest page that shows a pattern book from what looks to me like the early 1940s. Again, I’m choosing to interpret it that way so that it fits the challenge!

ed847e453f0ef3650867378abc2b3f55

Not being blessed with the ability to read Spanish, I’ve had to guess on a few things and just take the image as my inspiration. But I managed. So, for the great unveiling of the finished product…

DSCN6671

DSCN6672

DSCN6673

The Challenge: I don’t really need to list them all again, do I?

Fabric: About 70cm of velveteen, and about 50cm of satin lining.

Pattern: My own, but based on the Spanish pattern book above.

Year: 1940-ish

Notions: polyester thread, 1m of satin ribbon

How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably accurate. I left the darts out of the original pattern and played with the length, but on the whole it’s pretty close. The fabrics are synthetic versions of things that were available at the time.

Hours to complete: Including drafting the pattern, and faffing about figuring the best way to iron velveteen (Answer? Dont! Use steam instead!), it probably took about 4 hours total.

First worn: Never worn – but going to be for sale on Etsy, and at the Essendon North Kindergarten Fete, so some time after the first sale!

Total cost: The fabrics were all bought wholesale, so providing a price to make is a little inaccurate based on what I would pay buying retail. I can say that I’m selling them for AU$30 though!

Advertisements

Incomplete, insomnia, insane.

I have been suddenly and – stupidly – unexpectedly busy of late. Who would have thought that going back to university for a post graduate degree, attempting to scrape a living, sewing, and generally surviving, would leave me with bout 4 hours a day for the combination of sleep and blogging, and that none of the tasks would get done properly? Apparently not me, or I would never have signed up for the insanity… All of this, of course, means, that my plans for Historical Sew Fortnightly-ing, for doing side projects, of completing any projects to my own satisfaction, seeing my friends and family, and generally having any sort of breathing space have fallen by the wayside. So I’ve made a point of carving out a few minutes to post a much delayed and incomplete entry for the Bodice Challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, and added it to the list of things to be finished at a later date. Along with the planned rest of outfit to go with it…

IMG_0968

The front cut-aways are still to be determined. It’s missing sleeves, trims, seams… but you get the picture, right? You do? Please say you do… Because I have big plans for this outfit. If I ever get the time, I have enough of the striped cotton to make a bustle/overskirt, and what I hope is enough of the blue linen left to manage some sort of underskirt, cobbled together in truly period fashion with cheaper fabric for the invisible bits. There is some weirdness happening in various parts of this which need to be addressed before that, though. And the whole hemline needs to be adjusted (it’s going to be higher in front and dip down at the back over the bustle). And there needs to be – well, there needs to be lots of things. I figure this bodice is maybe a third of the way done, if I’m generous. And that’s having cheated and machined it. What you can’t see from these photos, though, is that it’s also flatlined. I didn’t want to cheat on everything! I figured I could justify machining since they did, technically, exist then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0970

There are many things I would change about this in hindsight, already. Not least of them is the way I’ve done the back seams. It is in no way historically accurate. Nor it is something that I like, so I’m tempted to pull them out and re-do now that I’m not in a mad challenge deadline mode. Although I’m in mad Conservation Professional Practices easy mode, which will be followed by more essays and… If you look closely, you might just see that steam coming out of my computer, my ears, my head, as I implode from all the pressures at the moment. No wonder my sewing was not going well, with all this going on. But I have to put it aside. A certain niece has a birthday coming up, which means that all other sewing not directly relating to income must be put aside to make a Queen Elsa costume, in full Frozen/Snow Queen glory. Good thing I discovered how to get through months with next to no sleep during my first stint at uni. Shame that was more than ten years ago and my body refuses to submit to demands for alertness on a week of four hours a night. Which might go some way to explaining any incoherence in this post.

 

 

Moving On – and back

Well, now that the great tulleaggedon of 2014 has left the building, I can actually move once more and I’ve started to contemplate next steps for my own sewing. Yep, it’s another inspiration post. Because I’ve decided that, with one Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge under my belt, I should gear up for another one. It doesn’t matter that I have plenty of other things going on, both sewing-related and not – such as the post graduate studies I’m about to commence, or the tutoring jobs I’ve taken on, to pay the bills. Nope. None of that is important. All that matters is that I have a sudden yen to make use of some of the lovely pieces of woollen fabric I have in my stash to make myself a Victorian-ish jacket for the bodice challenge. Height of summer be damned; I survived tulle, I think I can manage wool. Although now that I think of it, perhaps something else. Perhaps something linen-ish, if I can find enough stash for it. Or maybe – but I should probably not get into that here and now.

Making something Victorian breaks many of my rules about only making things for HSF that I can actually use in my everyday life. Especially given that I’m wanting to make something with a false vest and a decidedly equestrian feel to it. But I can’t help it, I want one. So rather than doing the pre-readings for my studies, or getting on with finishing the Pink dress (which I have decided is likely to stay unfinished until the UFO challenge), I spent a fair sized chunk of today looking at inspiration.

There was the whole wardrobe of Samantha Mathis as Amy March in Little Women. I especially loved this outfit, with it’s silvery embroidery detailing. Because I have a thing for embroidery of all sorts right now. And bustles. But that’s a whole other story. I just wish there were better photos available online for this – I almost resorted to pausing my DVD and taking a photo to capture the moment. Which would have provided the perfect excuse to watch the film again. Not that I need one, really.

3871146_std

mujercitas-little-women-1994-13

Then there was the whole Pinterest board that I created for this, dedicated to the bustle period since looking for Victorian era jackets inevitably leads to bustle drooling.

jacket

I cannot find the original location of this picture anywhere…If anyone knows, please let me know too!

I kind of fell in love with this one – enough that I had to create a whole gallery for it!

And, of course, there is the Dreamstress, who has inevitably been through every source known to man on all things historical clothing, and culled the pick of the crop for me already! Her Polly Oliver jacket may have been what originally put this in my head, actually, so I should be giving her extra cudos for this one!

IMG_2721

Plus, I’m not sure if you noticed it, but… Bustle! Hmm, I can see some more rule breaking in future…

In the pink

It seems that I am destined to overcome the lack of pink in my wardrobe at the moment. First it was the hat. Now it’s a dress. It’s not necessarily going to be the most attractive thing in my wardrobe, once it’s on, but I’m attempting to make it at least period accurate to the 1920s – it is, after all, to go with the hat of good and evil – and decorative in it’s own right.

The decoration in progress

The decoration in progress

This insistence on decorative features has seen me questing through the inter webs for 1920s embroidery motifs. I should clarify here. The last time I attempted any kind of actual embroidery, I was not yet a teenager. Actually, I think that’s the last time I had much pink in my closet, as well – it went so well with the blonde hair I had as a youngster that my mother couldn’t resist it. My mother attempted to teach me embroidery, about the same time she attempted to show me how to knit and crochet. The results were similar. After an initial burst of interest, I put down the half finished item – can’t even remember what it was, but I seem to recall a blue bow as the feature of the design – and never picked it up again. My patience for this sort of thing has improved dramatically since then, as has my hand work, but I was not sure of what I would be able to pull off working only with half remembered instructions and a vague idea of several stitches. Even so, I figured keeping the design fairly simple would be best. That was how I came across a fantastic little French blog, Tricots et Broderies d’Autrefois (which I think, in my school girl French, loosely translates as stitching and embroidery from other times…although I could be very wrong about that…), laden with period appropriate embroidery designs..

Sounds promising, yes? There were so many options at first glance that I was a little overwhelmed, though. Not least because my French is rusty enough to slow me down in navigating the details of things other than pictures. There were enough pictures to leave me thinking, “Ooh, that one! No, that one!” for a good half hour, though. A closer look revealed that most of my favourites are fancy letters. Not sure about you, but I wasn’t keen on monogramming a house dress that I’m figuring will only get used as a cover-up to keep me from getting covered in threads when I sew, an elaborate apron, if you will (after it makes its appearance as part 2 of the HSF Pink challenge, of course). I picked out one of the floral motifs, though, and headed off to Spotlight for some purchasing. 45 minutes later I walked out, bamboozled by the array of colours in the embroidery threads wall and wanting to go back in and buy them all, and all the toys that were further down the aisle which I wouldn’t even allow myself to do more than admire from a distance. I was also extremely proud of myself for only leaving with two things that hadn’t been on my purchase list. Spotlight – when they have a sale, they do it properly. So hard to walk away from 30-70% off fabrics… But I digress (as usual).

Thank god I had the forethought to trace out the dress pattern before starting the embroidery. And to put the whole design on the pattern piece at once. Because I sat down on a 38 degree day, buried myself under a mountain of cotton broadcloth, and emerged several hours later, hot but satisfied with progress. Except I didn’t quite realise it was several hours. And I wasn’t finished. It would be another 5 hours before I would be able to put it down, cut the piece out properly and take a photo or two to share my progress.

So there you have it. On the whole, I’m quite pleased with the look of it. I kept to simple stitches and think I managed to hide my lack of practice with this skill reasonably well. You can’t see the hours, sweat and swearing that went into it – although you can still see the outline of the embroidery hoop, because I have yet to iron it.

And now I have actual paying work piling up that can no longer be put off, so my time for procrastinating with this dress is over for the moment. It will be finished. But first I have the more prosaic task of dog bed covers. The work of an itinerant sewing machinist is varied, to say the least.

The Garden of Good and Evil Hat

Image

I never intended to complete the pink challenge. I was all lined up for the under it all challenge as my first attempt of the year. That’s the first disclaimer. The second is please excuse my terrible photography. And finally that, in spite of this, it is somehow done a wearable long before the due date. In fact, a quick glance over the Facebook page for this challenge seems to suggest that I’m the first one done. Given my rate of finishing things last year, this is beyond unexpected.

I’ve set myself the challenge this year of using HSF to make things that are actually wearable in a modern context. Or at least adaptable. Much as I love historical clothing, I can’t justify making things that will never get worn. And since I don’t do re-enacting, or work in a field that would let me wear a robe a l’anglais or bustles on a day to day basis (is there anywhere in Australia that would let this happen), this means that challenges I choose to complete will take some thought. Yet this challenge required almost none, and it’s use as a challenge item is something of an after thought.

But, with the summer giving me such a rosy glow I decided I needed a hat before stepping out into the garden to do some weeding. Only I couldn’t find any of the hats I own. I know there are 3 or so somewhere in the house, but their exact location is a mystery. So I headed to Etsy where, in another one of those coincidences that makes me thing this challenge was pre-destined for completion, I had bookmarked a cloche hat pattern on Friday while I was bored on the train. A quick trip into the stash, and I was ready to go.

Image

 

 

So why is this the Garden of Good and Evil hat? Well let’s just say that it has a contrary nature to it. The pattern only has 4 pieces, so it should be extremely easy to put together. But the instructions of the pattern – which I was attempting to follow, given that this is my first ever attempt at a hat – were, in some cases, none too clear. Or at least none too clear to me. In the end, I went my own way and was kind of glad I did. Although I cut things carefully, the band somehow ended up a slightly different size to the body of the hat, so there was some easing required. and I added some topstitching to the lining of the brim, just to make things a little smoother. The evilness also came from the fabric. The insides of the hat ended up a mass of threads where the edges pulled as I was working the seams, but the curves didn’t let me do much to tidy up other than snip threads where I found them. I had to go round several times for the finished item to make sure I had caught everything.

Hats are always tricky for my to wear anyway, thanks to a combination of a head circumference at the upper end of the scale (well it has to fit all my brains in, no?) and a seriously ludicrous amount of hair, which both make it difficult to find something that will fit. This combined with my round face makes finding something to suit tricky. I’m not entirely convinced by the outcome with this hat either. It’s a half decent fit, which is novel for me, not having to cram it on and hope for the best, but it’s a style that I have my reservations about how well it suits me. But, it will let me get into the garden to deal with the summer weed infestation that is taking over, without getting too excessively pink (so basically, I’ve completed the pink challenge, to avoid getting pink) and didn’t cost me anything other than the pattern. Good, evil, it’s all here in one handy stash-busting hat.

 

Image

 

The Challenge: Pink. Although it doesn’t photograph like it, it really is pink, trust me! Just at the brown end of the spectrum is all!

Fabric: Canvas and craft cotton

Pattern:  Stitchwerx Designs, Darling Dahlia Cloche Hat S106

Year: Pattern is new, styling is 1920s

Notions: The pattern is designed to have a flower on the side. I’m not a fan of that for this hat, which is all about the practicality…

How historically accurate is it? The style is reasonably accurate. It’s all made out of fabrics that would have been around in the 20s, and I only used the straight stitch on the machine – if I’d made it on my 1920s treadle the outcome would have been exactly the same, just slightly slower. The colours I’m not too sure about, but the stripe is not unrealistic, I think. So all in all, not a bad take for a first attempt at a hat.

Hours to complete: 2 and a smidge. I wasn’t clock watching, but feel like writing this post has taken me longer than the hat did.

First worn: Today. Likely to get a few more putting given the weather at the moment. And the pattern may get remade for winter as well, depending on how I feel about this one after a couple of wears.

Total cost: $7 for the pattern. All fabrics are from the stash.

 

Busy little bee

I know, I know. There has been a severe lack of posting going on with this blog of late. That’s because I’ve been busy actually sewing things. And finding other ways to procrastinate. But now, as soon as my terribly, painfully slow internet connection decides to let me access them, I have photos for updating what has been going on. I know – novel.

First there was the dress I made as a Christmas present for my niece.Last year she got a version of a ballet outfit – I say a version, because all of her dress ups are things that can be worn over other clothes – and she loved it. This year, I decided to go for a princess theme, based on Simplicity 2817.

Untitled-1

Her mother and I both try and avoid branding her too much, so she was never going to be Snow White or Cinderella. Plus, her favourite colour is purple, so that had to be in there somewhere. Add to that the fun of making something for a 3 year old who is the size of the average 6 year old, and you see where things might go wrong. Except it turns out that the only major problem was the length of the dress. I’m not sure if it was down to the lack of pouffy underskirts, but this dress was looong. As in I ended up having to take up about 15cm (6 inches for those who are still imperial), even after a deep hem. But she was thrilled with it, and refused to take it off – insisting that she must be called Princess A–. Incidentally, the pose is all her own doing. I told to stand still so I could take a photo and this is what she came up with.

Apologies for the terrible photo - that's what you get using a camera phone on a sunny day.

Apologies for the terrible photo – that’s what you get using a camera phone on a sunny day.

My other major tasks have all related to the Historial Sew Fortnightly (aka HSF). I’ve already mentioned the spencer that I planned. Turns out, I may have overestimated my pattern drafting abilities. Even working off the Janet Arnold original – which looks to be child sized to me, and may just fit Niece – I struggled to get something workable. So I ended up making my first attempt at draping.

On the whole, it came out pretty well, I think, even if the jacket is not, technically, finished. OK, it’s not finished at all, but you get the idea. The eagle eyed may notice one of the reasons why it’s not finished. I got a little distracted during the process and decided to makeover Esmeralda, my trusty dress form, so that she resembles me a little more closely. There will be more written about this at some stage, but suffice to say that hours with iron-on wadding, pins, and poplin caused me to evaluate my own natural shape in a fairly confronting manner. But they did also produce an increased likelihood that things will fit me better in future (except the hips, where I ran out of wadding…nothing seems to be getting finished at the moment).

Which of course leaves the question of what else I have been doing. Well, here it is. There was the bonus challenge for HSF, which I finished but never got around to photographing and posting. It’s a slip, planned for wearing under many a dress that I have daydreamed about, using up some gorgeous stretchy silk from the stash.

slip

I’m not entirely certain if this is late 1920s or early 1930s. I think I lean towards 1930s. Either way, it’s an entirely practical garment that is so unflattering I refuse to wear it in front of a camera. Esmeralda is otherwise occupied at the moment as well, so she has also refused to wear it.

I have been planning ahead with my HSF challenges. Or attempting to. There’s the UFO challenge up next. Of course, I have many UFOs. So I’ll not only be finishing the spencer jacket, I’ll be selecting something from the pile of period appropriate items that have been languishing in my UFO basket for years, in some cases. This is my task list for the next week or so –

UFO pile

Yep. I’m going to be busy again.

New Year, New Resolutions

I’ve had some productive time away from blogging – and away from work in general – which has let me do plenty of actual sewing. The only thing that held me back over the break was the weather. I’ve discovered that my little sewing cave turns into a little oven at about 3 o’clock on sunny days, thanks to a trick of orientation that lets the hot summer sun bake the brick walls, even though there’s a two storey building about 3 m away to the north. I will actually post pictures of the finished items – all 3 of them! – when I find where my camera is hiding.

But now that I’m back at work, sewing has ground to a halt. It doesn’t help that it’s about 40 degrees outside – that’s 105 for those who calculate such things in fahrenheit – so the thought of moving away from the air conditioner is decidedly unappealing. So I’m killing time thinking up new year resolutions other than my usual “don’t make new year resolutions”. The first I’ve come up with is to keep on top of my filing here at work. Take a peek at how my desk looks after a day and a half of tidying to get a sense of how this resolution came into existence…

Yep. Exciting, isn’t it. Those mountains of paper are things that I still have to figure out what to do with. It’s not filing, but the same problem flows through into my sewing. So even though I have these things going on, I’m thinking about one of my other resolutions – to take part in the Dreamstress’s Historical Sew-Fortnightly challenge.

I completed the bonus challenge during my time off – photos will follow, I promise, but they haven’t even made it to the proper album for the challenge yet, either. A 1930s silk slip in a creamy colour that actually makes me look almost tanned. Almost. And now I’m moving onto the next one, to make something appropriate for a year ending in 13. To truly stretch my sewing boundaries, I’m going with 1813. I’ve never made anything earlier than the 20th century before, so its taking some research. The original plan was to make Janet Arnold’s 1808 riding habit, but I’ve scaled back my ambitions and am now looking at using that as inspiration for a spencer. I know, 1808 is not 1813 – but I figure a riding habit is something that you might not have replaced every year unless you were extremely wealthy (although how many poorer women would have been riding in the first place?), and also that styles moved slowly then, so the fashions are likely to have been fairly similar. Just to make sure, I’ve been doing some research.

The spencer is an odd little garment, really. It’s cropped, so it’s not exactly practical to adapt for current fashions (although that said I do have a couple of cropped cardigans that I wear with empire line dresses – so perhaps I’ll find a use for it afterall), but it was an essential element of the regency wardrobe. Most sources seem to suggest that it was an adaptation of a gentleman’s fashion. They seem to have been made to suit all seasons – having experienced the joys of a British climate, I can certainly understand the need for some sort of cover-up – and in fabrics from the most practical every day to the most sumptuous evening dress. I’m aiming a little lower, planning to use a simple cotton broadcloth which is not exactly historically accurate (the more common fabrics used seem to have been silks and wools, with the occasional foray into velvet, which I did contemplate), but as this is in my stash it is a winner. The biggest problem for me, other than trying to re-size the teeny pattern provided by Janet Arnold to fit my comparably gargantuan frame, is to narrow down the finishing details. There are so many options. Frills, braid, puffs, gatherings, pleats, double or single breasted? So, in an effort to find my way out of the wilderness, I’ve narrowed my thoughts down to these:

I love the pleats at the back of this, and will probably replicate if I can

I love the pleats at the back of this, and will probably replicate if I can

Love the idea of military frogging on the front, but have a feeling that is will be somewhere beyond my combination of time and skill at the moment

Love the idea of military frogging on the front, but have a feeling that is will be somewhere beyond my combination of time and skill at the moment

More pretty decoration that is unlikely to happen on my frist attempt...

More pretty decoration that is unlikely to happen on my first attempt…

Something more like what I think I will end up with. Although not in pink. I wouldn't want to look dead if ever I should wear it...

Something more like what I think I will end up with. Although not in pink. I wouldn’t want to look dead if ever I should wear it…

pink4pink4

 

 

So now I’ve just got to get on with sewing the thing…

And that leads me to my second, and final, new years resolution – to cut back on the procrastination. You can see how well I’m doing so far!