Hello again! Found my way back here.

   It’s winter again. Today is Tuesday, and we have received over one foot of snow so far, at 14:00 hrs. Not a record-breaking amount, but a lot for us, since we had a completely green Christmas. I was actually gardening on Christmas day, in a t-shirt!!!

Last week ended with a deep freeze, so deep we lost the mercury on our thermometer. The coldest this thermometer drops to is -30 C. It has crept back up a little, only to land us in a very real snow storm. Not a  raging, windy, howling and blustering storm. Only a constant, heavy fall of rather fine flakes, collecting on our window sills and everywhere else, high enough to prevent seeing out, is what we woke up to today. I dug out the seeds and other treats we put out for the birds and squirrels, but it got re-buried within 30 minutes. The crows are cawing and chatting… We are privileged to host 5 crows almost every day,  at our feeding station!!!

But I am not here to talk about the birds or animals or the weather! I got rather busy last year with many projects. Some from the local Super Heroes group, others from the 501st, weddings and proms and finally quite a few personal things, such as my first ever, absolutely (looking) accurate Tudor gown and other costumes needed for our first visit to a Renaissance Fair in the U.S.A. My own Tudor outfit took very close to 300 hours. There was a lot of hand embroidery, as well as free-motion machine hand-controlled embroidery, beading and hand-couching and a lot of hand sewing to get it all together.

It looks like I am slipping into talking about that project, rather than talking about my K-Coats (which are what I intended to discuss!!!!!!). I also started making K-Coats last year.  In fact I produced 34 of them!!! Some were commissioned, most were just coats I HAD to make!!! That was what I thought to write about today. So which shall it be?

I think that now that I have started, I will continue with the Tudor outfit. I am very proud of it. Since it takes a lot of room in the closet, Justin suggested we keep My Lady on her mannequin, in the living room, near the fireplace. A permanent exhibit of what I consider to be the apotheosis of my *making* career. I wore it only 4 hours. Maybe even not quite.

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Our Tudor couple.

The whole RenFair experience was new to us. We were invited to join my friend and her husband at the Bristol, WI. Renaissance Fair. Then I invited another friend to come and she brought one daughter and a niece too!!! The Bristol Faire is considered to be the *best* RenFair in the country. Their time-frame is late Elizabethan. I chose late Tudor as our era for our costumes.

Our first look at the Entrance to Bristol Renaissance Faire!!

Our first look at the Entrance to Bristol Renaissance Faire!!

I could go into the whole story of how and why Tudor times have always been my favourite era in history. I think I may have touched upon that in a past entry of my blogging. If I haven’t, I will come back to that, later here, or in another blog.

There is so much goes into making a costume (or any piece of *meaningful* clothing). Especially for me. THIS Tudor costume has been decades in the desiring, thinking, preparing, envisioning, designing etc. and also collecting of fabrics and trims, embroideries, beads, gems and buttons. My use of burgundy for it is not surprising at all. In fact, burgundy has been a favourite of mine all my life, probably because of my love for Tudor costuming. I used silk for the outer, final layer of the garb. I made a pair of stays two years ago… in hope that one day they would be used within their proper context. I made the stays to go to the 5th Anniversary of the Ottawa Steampunk group’s gala. I was thinking ahead. There was a chance that I would be going to a RenFair in the next couple of years, so my corset for the Steampunk Gala was actually a Pair of Stays.

My reversible pair of stays.

My reversible pair of stays. Note the blackwork embroidery at neckline and sleeve hems. All the ridges seen here smooth out very flat once I am wearing it.

I made the stays, with all their boning, and the outside layers in two silks: a red one, with black sketches of roses, for the inside and a pale blue heavier brocaded silk (bought in Shanghai!! The Mecca of silks!!!) for the outer layer. In fact, the stays were made to be reversible. So I could wear them red, or blue. I cheated in the end. I have made many corsets and gowns requiring lacing up at the back. I have worn many myself. This time, I decided, I would use a zipper (OOOOARGH!!! OH!!!! SHAME!!!) to make it easier to get on, if I had to do it alone. At the Fair, my friend pointed out that if I had put lacing on them, I could have reduced my silhouette by several inches. Perhaps. Yes, perhaps. But, (when I first made them), I wanted to be relatively comfortable… and Tudor stays, in any case, were not made to reduce the size of the wearer. They were made to force the body’s shape cylindrical. Not curvaceous. No emphasis on the chest size (eyebrows raising in a knowing way). In fact, the stays rather flatten the bust: they push it up, but do not reconfigure it. I didn’t really mind that I could have been 5 inches smaller. I was glad, actually, in the end, that the stays straightened and helped support my back, without forcing me smaller. It was a very hot and humid day (31C) in Bristol when I wore My Lady Tudor. I stayed in the shade most of the day… The first 2 hours were a rather precarious time, when I relied on my cane for stability and I was really fighting fainting from the heat… then I got used to it all, and spent another two hours parading about as if I had been born to that clothing!!!

My Lady Tudor is based on three or four paintings I finally chose to help design this gown.

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janeseymour  bookcover

I was determined to make it as accurate as can be. Some parts were made to *look* perfect. I didn’t make a separate placard. I made the bodice all in one, with folds in the fabric in strategic places, to make it look like there was a separate placard and I sewed on brass pin heads in the right places. In Tudor times, they preferred to cover the lacing up part, which was at the front, unlike the Victorians’ dresses and corsets, and they covered this lumpiness with a placard. Enhancing and further shaping the body into a cylinder. Not a shapely (eyebrows raising up and down) bosomed bodice. The bosom was pushed up. Some RenFair girls wear their stays WAY too tight (I felt) to REALLY do that push-up thing. I actually asked one or two of them in Bristol if it was painful having your breasts pushed up so high, you could rest your chin on them….. Apparently, it is not uncomfortable.

I digress again. Such is my mind. Wandering and remembering and commenting! The three paintings I used as reference guides were: the cover of the book which gave me the instructions and guidelines of all the parts I needed for the costume. This book is: *Creating Historical Clothes*. The painting is of a 16 year-old *woman* in 1565. I also used the painting of Princess Elizabeth, at age 13 or 14 (1546). Then there was a painting of Queen Katherin Parr, the one who out-lived King Henry VIII. But at the time of the painting she was simply a*Lady*, wife of Lord Latimer, but the depiction of her clothing was very instructional. Another painting which had good details and inspiration, was one of Queen Jane Seymour: the one who died of childbirth and is renowned to be Henry VIII’s *favourite* wife. Favourite only because she is the only one who bore him a son who survived early childhood… But that is a whole other story and subject to many thoughts of mine…. Not needed here!

All these dresses were red to burgundy, by the way! I got jewellery details and sewing details from all these paintings.

I looked for more books and more information… I eventually based all the details on these paintings and made what I hoped were correctly looking historical parts. When I strayed from *CORRECT*, it was only so I could get into this clothing on by myself. With very little help if required. That’s why the placard is included in the bodice’s  design. Just one piece, yet it looks like two or more. Really. It does!!! I have had a lot of experience making historical clothing easy to make and put on, yet LOOK exactly right. Does not take away from the final costume!!!

There was the blackwork embroidered linen under-chemise. Then the under-skirt, then the *hoop skirt*, then the kirtle (or kyrtle), in two parts in my case.  Then finally the over skirt  comprised of the fore skirt, which is the flashy showy part of the skirt which is sewn to the rest of the skirt which is always hidden. The bodice was layered this way: chemise (well embroidered, in blackwork, at neck and sleeve hems), stays, kyrtle top, silk bodice top.

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Close up of the over sleeve with the linen chemise peeking through. Note the blackwork.

As big as I thought my bum roll turned out, it seems I still managed to make it smaller than many I have seen since. It feels cool though!! Then the various skirts and hooped parts. Then, FINALLY, the outer skirt. I found some beautiful burgundy silk at a second-hand shop. It was actually a brand new queen-size duvet cover, silk on BOTH sides, bed skirt and two king size pillow shams. All silk, all clean and new!!!!

The fore skirt had a very good pattern on it, but it needed some more pizazz…. So I over embroidered, free-hand machine embroidery, a good part of the gold in it. As it still needed *more*, I also added gold metallic trim which I decorated further with black satin soutache and eventually pearlized beads in various sizes and larger gemstones to it. This fabric also served as the under sleeves, which had slashes cut into them. The picture below shows the embellishments on the fabric for the over sleeves.

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This is the main fabric for the fore skirt and the under sleeves. It required quite a bit of extra dazzle.

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Here you can see the over sleeve, covered by the over fold, which was couched and beaded as well as black work added to give it more texture.

I made the French Hood too. There were many hours of beading in that!!! I was happy with the end result. I used a pattern for it, and although I reduced the size of it when I cut the first piece, after it was all done, the various layers of cotton and felt added some volume to it. I did sew the ties for it, which go under the neck, to help hold it up, but they drove me crazy in my fittings. So I altered it by adding a hair comb on the inside, to attach it to my hair. That was a good idea: it stayed on my head very comfortably that way and didn’t strangle me, the way the ties had done.

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I also made my husband’s costume…. He had a few stipulations though: NO *bubble pants*, it must have matching fabric to mine, no silliness. How does one achieve *NO silliness* when reproducing a historic costume? They wore these clothes with absolute faith that these were what is right. The same way we do with all our trends and fancies today, in the 21st Century1!! And his costume adventures will be the subject of my next blog I think!!

The Mad Hatter is IN!

A new challenge was sent out mid-February for the March Challenge from the VPLL’s sewing project. Our leader Kim sent this to us:

“This is a CHALLENGE! Not a pattern challenge, but a challenge to those of you who want to play 1912. Because in 1912 all of the La Mode would be getting ready to buy and all of the others would be starting to plan…. their Easter bonnets. Yep, everyone needs a new hat for Easter whether you celebrate it or not. So on Easter, let’s have a parade! Pix of all the new duds, along with your new Easter Bonnet! It can be as elaborate as a silk and buckram model or grabbing a straw hat and decorating it with ribbons and flowers.”

Not one to ignore direct challenges and dares, I took it up. How could I resist? Since I discovered the ad for this 1912 Project my every spare moment has been consumed by looking for pictures myself or looking at the pictures the other ladies find and post. Then making some of these items… As I mentioned before, I realized that I could not possibly ever see all there is to see nor save it to my computer. But I have kept most pictures for one *subject* every time I see one: HATS!! Oh my God the hats I have seen!! Feathery, floral, feathery and floral together, ribbon decorations, bows, more flowers, more feathers, fruit and small birds and the list goes on. HUGE hats, teeny tiny ones. Lace concoctions simply plopped on the wearer’s head. Enormous hats balanced on bunned up hair and wind-defying in their stature… In the pictures below are actual photographs of ladies wearing these hats, some to outside events.

  

  

     It is amusing to note that the flowers in her decolletage are exactly the same as the two bunches on her hat!

When I shot down to my studio to get the materials together for my new Easter Hat I pulled out fabric and lining and a number of flowers and ribbons, lace and other trims. There was no plan yet.

 

I just knew I wanted the hat to be pale pink, white and grey. I had some white ostrich feathers left over from the Plumed Hat: they would provide the white froth. I spent one day going through my antique and vintage lace box and pulled out many matching bits. Had to iron them all. It took a couple of days to find the right base for the hat. The local Salvation Army had the perfect hat on a mannequin but wouldn’t sell it to me until the end of the month. I had to wait about two weeks. And the trepidation which kept me awake: will I get there before anyone else takes it? was making me crazy!! (yes… I suffer from a certain amount of obsessive worrying at times!!) So I took all the trims and things and started the sorting: colour matching the various pink items and eliminating the wrong pinks. Upon seeing the varying widths of the ribbon, one was chosen to be the spiraling for around the outer edge of the brim.

  

I wanted grey as well and all I had was a tiny bit of ribbon. That’s when I decided to order natural grey ostrich feathers.

Blanket ribbon in the bottom left corner. Ostrich feathers in 3 shades.

They arrived within the two weeks of waiting for the hat! I was delighted with the colour of the grey to brown feathers when they arrived. Two or three were exactly right for this project!

One day, as I was driving home from visiting my Mum, I realized I was going by the Sally Ann and had missed the end-of-month date to go get the hat! Argh!! That Voice of Doom in my head was saying things like: *It’s gone, since it went for sale four days ago… EVERYBODY is looking for an Easter hat don’t you know and isn’t that one just perfect?? It won’t be there… Should I stop or should I go on? Oh well, I am here anyway!! * This store has been reconfigured in the past year and I couldn’t see the hat anywhere… Voice in my head: *Oh, well, I shall browse, maybe there is something else equally suitable.* I turned at the end of the fourth aisle I had gone down and THERE on the wall facing me was MY hat!!  Immediate dance of joy and quick shuffle to the wall, grabbed the hat (It was brand new!!!) and sang all the way home. I think Metallica was singing Neverland and I cranked it!

And so it began in earnest… I got a lot done that very day. I cut out a light weight lace from its large flat piece of fabric (picture below left) into the correct scalloped shape I wanted and then sewed it to the underside of the brim, as was pictured in one Hatlady’s website (picture below right).

                    

Then I put the blanket ribbon around the crown. It was the perfect pink and too short to ever apply to a blanket anyway. I had plans for using some white gathered satin ribbon but in the end found it too busy. When that was finally done I pinned more lace on the top side of the brim in place, you know, pinning it here, adding more, repinning the first bit, taking it all apart and starting over again… Went back and forth like that for another day. Once I was satisfied with the brim I started working the feathers.

And the very next day I got an immense job request from the Museum. Noooooo!! But of course, I can’t turn down a job that helps pay for my hat bits and home insurance… Maybe that order is somewhat skewed but that’s how I feel about priorities at times! 🙂

All I could think about was getting back to the hat! Last week I had to finish the museum’s oder and I was sewing a beautiful gold satin and grey lace (with extremely tiny sequins) two-piece outfit. I also had to finish embroidering the Ultrasuede for my Steampunk bustier for the event I was planning to attend on Saturday night as well as complete the gear and cog earrings to go with the outfit. So the hat was finished in the late afternoons of Thursday and Friday.

 Back view, before the pink ribbon spiralled edging was sewn on.

Sunlight through the brim shows both lace types sewn to the top and the underside.

Sunday I read everyone’s news on Facebook and generally did nothing except go for groceries… and be very pleased with my effort at the Easter Hat. My very good (hat adoring and shoe fetishist) friend came by and was suitably admiring and we decided that now we need to order black ostrich feathers for our next hats. They were bid on and won by Sunday night. All we have to do now is sit… and wait…

Spring Cleaning…

The count is now just over 400 members for the VPLL 1912 Sewing Titanic Project. We have been divided into 35 groups. Three patterns were sent out to the first lucky three groups… I was not in any of those. So the wait for that is stretching out some more.

😦 We were told a fourth pattern will be sent tomorrow Friday: Gr.34 may be the one to get it!

I had a wonderfully productive day yesterday… finishing many little projects that were abandoned as important work came in and sometimes left because more exciting things drifted along… So yesterday I added one Ostrich plume to the Little Hat and what a difference! I have been learning how to shape and work the feathers. My friend thought one of the smaller plumes would be just right for the Little Hat. She was right. It is now ready to meet the world!

       

I participate in our city’s belly dance community bi-annual bazaar and I have been preparing for the February installment. This prompted me to clear out many older items from the racks and get a few new ones ready… In so doing two shelves of inventory were re-assigned or completely disposed of and THAT allowed me to clear off my space on the light table which is also my main working area. I can spread my ostrich feathers out and properly gauge their sizes and plumage in order to start sewing them together and then onto the new hat. The new hat was fitted with its brim-edge wire, to give it the right shape and fold at the end. This hat by the way, is made of 100% paper!!! Its a very good summer hat!! 🙂

There was a skirt on the table which I started “un-decorating” some months ago: it had lovely salmon iridescent coloured beads all over it. Since I didn’t care much for the skirt style, I started removing the beads carefully for a future piece. The skirt is now in the donation box and the beads are safely in a little pouch…

Now that the White and Magenta stripe Steampunk outfit is finished, my mind has gone to transforming an 80’s jacket into a newer shape. It is wrinkled black printed with gold *splotches* and further textured with black flocking. I have already removed the gigantic collar and some lining. The lapels are also very wide and have a paisley gold print on them… they are still there while I decide to keep them or not. The same fabric is used as the cuff fold-over lining too… Just not sure about that part yet. I can’t decide whether to make it Steampunk or more ordinary for daily use. It will be machine embroidered with some new designs found earlier this week: an octopus, a swallow and some gears, which are definitely Steampunk oriented… the embroidery will be done in a matching gold thread so it will stand out better. I’m thinking across the back at shoulder level and perhaps some at the bottom hem front, maybe the sleeves.

    

I really like the way it is separated into two tails at the back. And it will certainly need reducing in size and tapering at the waist: it was made for the huge shoulder pads that completed the very boxy look of clothing and were so popular in the mid to late 80s. A major overhaul for sure!!

There is a black bustier in my stash of clothing for remodelling that will be a good match for this jacket. It has some beige embroidered flowers and leaves along the panels between the ribbed boning seams. I have already started that to better fit me as it was a little small in the cups. So the delicate embroidery on the black netting was removed from the original cups and I refitted the bustier with my own size cup then sewed the embroidered black net back onto them. Now I am deciding about outlining the boning seams or not. I have a nice black and metallic gold braid that would be a good match and make the ribbing stand out better. Adding all this detailing would make the bustier more formal, dressier and definitely more *costumy*. The question is: should it become a costume for sale or remain a piece to add to my (already bulging) closet?

Which brings me to another job which should be done soon: slimming the closet. Yes, there definitely are (too) many clothes in there!! I am quite guilty of loving clothes, especially for summer: bright, colourful, soft skirts mostly. It’s not to have clothes: it’s because I love the fabrics and the colours so much!! I want to have every colour and all the soft textures I come across!! That means a lot of t-shirts and tops needed. I rarely buy anything full price as I make most of my summer clothes… so there isn’t a large financial investment in there!! Making my own clothing has led me to having tons of it. Opening my closet doors is like opening the doors onto a rainbow! A frothy, soft, silky or rayonny rainbow! Cotton is usually too crisp, linen too: most of the skirts, dresses and tops  are either silk or rayon. These fabrics drape so gently and just take colour so well!! My lovely deep, saturated, juicy colours that make me so happy!

As it happens… it didn’t…

Sometimes, even David Attenborough doesn’t get the video he was hoping for. So he pronounces on it. That’s today’s title.

It’s been three weeks yesterday since I started this… The excitement has worn off a little as the package from the VPLL Titanic 1912 Project still hasn’t arrived but I am still constantly surfing for images, reading articles, absorbing and learning. The group get daily updates from the organizers and we have been told that 3 patterns are now ready for distribution!

In the multitude of pictures crossing my browser’s path, there are quite a few hats of course! Everyone wore a hat in those faraway days and they were BIG! The straw or velvet or felt hat was a large wide base to support countless flowers, with feathers, or just feathers. OSTRICH feathers… the beautiful plumes that seem to float made the hats light weight and ethereal! I have developed a liking for large hats… and last Sunday I broke down and splurged on 20 Ostrich Plumes to decorate a 1910s style hat I intend to make… They arrived in the mail today and they are gorgeous!!!

I am also sewing away at my little Steampunk project. This week I finished most of the hand sewing and realized that I will have to reinforce the small point of the stomacher. As I sewed it to the front folds of the drape it lost its shape… So I had to decide whether to take the stitches out and put some extra sheeting in there, or try doing that without taking the stitches out. Either way it would be a long job… so I made it easier on myself and took the stitches out, put stronger interfacing in and then re-attached the folds to the point.

In spite of the wicked flu that descended on me last weekend and which is still having its way with me, sending me to bed in the afternoon to rest and stop the dizziness, I managed to cut out, sew and finish the little hat for the Steampunk outfit. I am still deciding if I want to add more height to it with longer feathers… My daughter thinks it should be more imposing. I will leave it for the weekend and have another look at it on Monday. I never thought to stop every once in a while to photograph my progress. My bad! Here it is as it stands today.

The rest of my family have come down with my flu and are suffering its various stages, so I feel I will be nursemaid to them. How is it that I fell prey to it first? I work from home and only go out a couple of times a week!! One of the other three brought it home, I’m sure!!! Adding to the costume will be done while they sleep! The sleeves need to be attached to the jacket and the bustle requires snaps and hooks to attach it to the waist. And it will be done!! 🙂

On another tangent… A wonderful friend of mine sent me a picture of the most extraordinary dress I have seen in a long time! It’s a Luly Yang design, made of silk, painted to look like Monarch Butterfly wings! I wanted to share this with you, as it caused quite a stir of excitement on my part… Now I want to make one similar… I was thinking I could use light cotton or rayon, to make it less formal so it can be worn in summer daytime. It is truly beautiful and I can imagine myself in it now, basking in the warm sunlight! I have the fabric paints and the frame; all I need are several yards of white fabric to paint the colours on! Yes another project adding itself to my wish list! 🙂

Moving on while waiting…

Hello! 🙂  I was doing some *research* last night… browsing and surfing, clicking and saving. Floating from link to link that has been posted by The Titanic Ladies. They actually are made of two separate groups: The Unsinkables and The Titanic 1912 Sewing Project ladies. These are groups of ladies involved in the VPLL’s 192 pattern testing project. I discovered Pinterest in the past two weeks… which has led me to open an account for myself and all of you. You can re-pin my discoveries, the way I repinned many pictures in the past two weeks. I will try to post as many of my collection over the next few days as I can. It’s a long process because you can only pin one picture from your own folder at a time. No downloading the entire folder at once… very time-consuming. BUT, I think that for us it is a very good idea: that way we can share our discoveries. If you remember, if you read my first post, I am a very visual learner. I have been combing the Internet for pictures. They are educating me. I am learning about the 1910s fashions in a very in-depth way.  This Pinterest board of mine has changed names all week. I need to learn a little more about how to pin to the different boards… In the meantime, everything I am finding is going to the same board with its new name since yesterday: *Everything for now…*. I will try to sort things out later… Over the next week I will be fairly busy with a large bin of repairs to costumes and clothing from the Museum of Civilization.

One lady refers to our occupation as *sewist*. I like that! Its better than *sewer* (I explained my dislike for that word in my first chapter). Another uses: *fashionista sewista*. Fancy… but because I have been using the old word for so long, I may have difficulty using the new ones…

I finished the transformation of a Bomber Jacket to a Long Tibetan Coat this week. A good friend had purchased a thickly quilted, bat-wing sleeved bomber jacket in the early 80s and wasn’t wearing it anymore. But she really loved the jewel tones in it and was wondering how to go about making a more modern and practical garment out of it. So I took it on and together we made a neat long jacket by adding some fabrics she had in her collection.

   

I also progressed quite a bit on my Steampunk Outfit. I added some elements but the main push was to sew everything that had been pinned on, so I won’t get jabbed as much as I keep on working on it and to prevent thread pulls too, when I move the jacket from the dress, or try the bustle on for size. Another very important step I took this week, before the hours of hand-sewing I knew were to follow: I tried the dress and jacket on to make sure they still fit since I had made so many changes to the basic dress… It did. I heaved a deep sigh of relief!! Now everything is back on Dolly and her nameless friend and the details are being thought of and added or removed again… The sleeves are being decorated and sewn before assembling them to the coat, that way there is much less fabric to push around while sewing the lace or cording. Once the sleeves are complete, and the coat is finished itself, they will be joined at the armhole of course and it will be done.

I made a separate bustle from a raspberry pink thick velvet. In order to keep it stiff yet look soft and drapy, I ironed some very stiff interfacing to the taffeta lining and then sewed some old horsehair to the outside seams as I joined the velvet and the lining. The velvet looks soft, yet it won’t make unwanted pleats and the ones that are there will stay that way. The edges are being finished with a 4″ wide black lace for the bottom part of the bustle and the top one will have a matching but only 1″ wide lace.

  This is a close up of the thick scalloped lace being used all around the jacket panels and forming a bodice medallion of sorts. I thought to let the various pieces of the jacket hang loose from the hip down into panels that will ride over the bustle. That idea came from a picture of an 1871 Jacket.

(I want to add here that I realize now that I should have been more careful about recording the source of many of my pictures. I will endeavour to identify my sources better from now on… Unfortunately, there are already so many in my collection that it would be a complicated job to go back to find all the sources.)

As it is Saturday, I am thinking of taking a small break from my *research* for the 1912 project, my Steampunk Outfit and  the Museum work and go start playing with one of my Christmas presents. I received a starter kit of a product that allows me to sculpt with fabric, after a fashion… This product hardens and weatherproofs any fabric used for the sculpting. It can be used transparent, so the print shows, or dyed. One can make all sorts of figurines: human or animal and *things* to decorate the garden or deck or pond or the inside of your house. First a wire frame, slightly built out must be prepared and then the fabric is soaked in the product and then stretched onto the frame. I have an idea and it is time to try it out!

I bid you a farewell and wish you a good weekend! According to a post from our coordinator yesterday, my first package with patterns in it may arrive next week. … All I have to do… is sit… and wait… 😉

Midnight Blues.

As I wade through the mountain of thoughts that keep me awake at night, I wonder about the vagary of the brain’s pathways and what fires it to this state of activity when it should be resting. Isn’t night time meant to rest the body, the mind and the soul, where dreams should take over and run one through the experiences of the day? Or of other moments which have made an impression on one?

I wake up, feeling its time to get up and start my day only to discover that I have only been in bed about an hour and a half! I have dreamt and now I awake fully prepared to tackle my new projects or continue the started ones and I despair that I have to lie here for another 7 or 8 hours, enslaved by all the ideas rushing at me wanting to be heard, chosen and developed. They ENvelop me and wrap themselves tightly, the most urgent ones returning constantly, hammering at me, until I get up and put them to rest by writing them down. And I imagine them cheering as I get up out of my warm bed to find somewhere to dispose of them in an effort to quieten these voices that suggest the thousand threads of ideas insisting on finding their way in here. Most will be discarded. Many will be thought about until tried out… some will become obsessions that I will work on and further change until I feel all has been done for and said about them.

I started thinking about writing a new chapter about some of the people who booked a berth on the Titanic. It was suggested I write a chapter about facts about the Titanic. It is a well-known story and I can’t add anything to what has already been discovered and written about it. My son went through a period in his ‘teens of intense interest about the Titanic. I bought many books, models for him to build, videos to watch. We followed with keen interest the adventures of Dr Robert Ballard who finally discovered its final resting place and read with mounting excitement the articles in The National Geographic magazine documenting this momentous event! http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/photos/discovering-titanic/

I also thought of documenting my current sewing project. It’s keeping me occupied during the wait for my vintage pattern package. It’s a Steampunk Outfit. Steampunk is a pseudo-Victorian movement involving Victorian derived clothing and Victorians’ fascination with the emerging machinery of the period. This jacket and skirt I am putting together have elements gleaned from several different fashion trends within 19th Century European mainstream costuming, plus some of my own ideas based on what I have at hand in my immense stash of fabrics, notions and trims. A certain fabric jumped to mind one day last week: it had originally been destined to be a Georgian outfit… I only had 2 m when i really required 4.5m to make the jacket i was thinking of… so i redesigned it and made it to complement the skirt. Or is it the skirt that will complement the jacket?  Let’s just say: They were made for each other! 🙂 Here are a few pictures.

  The fabrics I’m using:  
Next is a sleeve with black lace:  
The bodice is almost a stomacher:
There are loops at the back for the ties:

  Mostly pinned together outfit so far. There will be a bustle of sorts but it hasn’t been cut yet.

Another subject insisting on its time in the sun (under the moon would be more precise since I am writing in the middle of the night) is the finishing of my Siren Costume, there may be pictures in a future post. Then comes the realization that I will never be able to collect all the existing pictures of Victorian or any historical time fashions and clothing. I have spent hours in the past week surfing the Net, picking pictures and identifying them in chronological order to file them correctly in my Period Costume folder. Am I going crazy? I am not alone though! This past week and especially in the last two days, since the formation of this project’s Facebook Group, I have watched as the various participants of this Titanic Sewing Project join and share their own passion and excitement at being part of it! I see that there are a lot of women who spend at least as many hours as I do, searching for, exulting at and collecting dozens (even hundreds! Thousands?!) of photographs of fashion plates, paintings and old photographs of clothing of bygone eras. And I marvel at the enthusiasm of all these ladies, from beginner to hobbyist to professional sewer for the Titanic era clothing! I read that there are 345 of us who wish to challenge our brains and try our hands at assembling new garments from vintage patterns published a hundred years ago! So far 102 have signed up on the Facebook page. It hadn’t really occurred to me that there would be as many fanatics for this time-period as there were for Medieval or Classic era garb and way of life! And why shouldn’t there be? About 10-15 years ago I was seriously involved with the craze for medieval weddings and fundraising balls and other events. I am now mildly participating in this Steampunk movement as I was made aware of it about three years ago and I want to produce my version of it after absorbing the pictures for 2 years now! As a designer and creator of costumes and general clothing I feel privileged to be able to supply them to other people who want to share the feeling of what it was like to dress and live in those days, whatever the period. Or whatever the current version, vision and understanding of any period. I simply enjoy fabric and making things from it! I also make quilts, duvet covers, cushions, dolls, tablecloths, flags and banners and tote and handbags in many sizes and shapes. Soon I will be sculpting with it… if I could get this new clothing sewing obsession out of my mind!!! Everything in its time I guess!

I remember reading and hearing in a long ago past, that no music we compose, hear and listen to today is *new*. It has all been written already. We are just giving the same few basic notes new tempo, new rhythm, new context but the riffs are repeats of older compositions. It dawned upon me that the same can be said of clothing and making it. As I exclaim and melt at, admire, adore or despise the clothing I see in all in these pictures I have gathered, I realize that today’s designers are not inventing anything new, really. We are only folding, draping and assembling and embellishing fabric in combinations and modeling the same ideas over and over again. There is only so much which can be done to protect and adorn the same body shape after all!

And that brings me to another question that has taunted and pursued me for years and years. According to most anthropologists, we have all evolved from the same root, the same core in Africa. And some of us went east, others north and eventually some went west (once we had the technology) to meet peoples that had gone east millennia before. Of course the human animal encountered different living conditions everywhere it travelled, emigrated and settled… Yet I still wonder why or how the human brain contrived the easily recognized Asian styles of dress at the same time (more or less) as it developed the European styles. And why is it that the basic shape born and made in India, China, Japan,  Korea etc stayed virtually the same over the thousands of years that have been documented yet, European clothing changed so radically? The changes were slow at first but then sped up and went in so many different directions!! The basic tunics eventually became waisted gowns: high waisted, straight or cinched. Skirts went from tubular to bell and A-shaped to artificially widened sideways (with pads then panniers and then crinolines), then exaggerated all around then only at the back. Then suddenly the under frames evaporated away!! Hairdos (and hats or head coverings) did the same: short, then long and braided, long and rolled up, long and stacked on the head to two and three feet high, then back to rolled and tucked away. Sleeves were initially narrow and practical, then lengthened and then widened and even dragged on the ground then shortened and narrowed again. Nowadays trends last a month? But we certainly have more options available at once yet conformity is still a driving force.

I love to turn pieces of clothing into other things. For example I have often turned pants and leggings into tops or jackets. Short jackets into long coats. Skirts into pants and bags. Bags into belts and even dance bras!! All sorts of clothing goes into quilts, duvet covers and even floor coverings and carpets!! None of this is new: many of our ancestors did this! I firmly believe in recycling and re-using and will take apart various unused things to reconstruct them into new (hopefully) useful items. It’s mostly my love of colour and texture that drives me to these experiments.

What really impresses, or even completely blows me away, is the enormity of the work that went into decorating the cloth for clothing and furnishing the well-to-do over the ages. Today some is done by hand still but most of it is done with an artificially power-driven machine (as opposed to plain human powered), which dramatically speeds up the process. When you look at a hand-embroidered gown from the Middle ages, the Renaissance or China, do you realize this took months to accomplish? Do you remember that it was done in unimproved daylight or by candlelight? Some of those stitches are so small and so close together!! Think of the huge tapestries and bed coverings before jacquard and brocade weaving was invented and widely used!! Even after it was developed it was still a huge process until it became steam (and eventually electricity)assisted… It occasionally boggles my mind and that’s when I realize I have to stop looking at the pictures for a while…. I fry my brain with these thoughts!!