Moving to the ’40s.

 Hello! I’m back! With the end of the 1912 Project came a temporary stop to my blogging. Not that I haven’t done anything since then!! I will write about some of those sewing projects later: *The Spirit of Hallowe’en* was one, complete with top hat and gown. There were a couple of wedding gowns… and I made a fall coat to match the Skants I posted about, as well as a three-piece set of dress, skirt and bolero made from a delightful insect print heavy cotton, amongst the more interesting projects… There were some textile-but-not-sewing projects done too. I made a few embroidered leather bags and other accessories as well as a few hats (including a top hat) for the Geek Market I had a booth in last October. Oh dear, I have just realized I have a lot to catch up on!

Through the 1912 Project I met many ladies from all over the world. Many own and run their own clothing/costuming, millinery, wig making or footwear businesses. One that caught my eye was Lorna McKenzie’s *The Tailor’s Apprentice*, out of Sydney, Australia. I followed her travels to England in late summer and wandered about her website. She recently posted asking for testers for her line of 1940s patterns derived from real clothing she received… She tells that story very well on her site: http://www.thetailorsapprentice.com/index.php/patterns/category/miss-page. As I enjoy period costumes and clothes, I volunteered by writing to her saying I would like to give it a whirl! Within that week I received two patterns in digital form, which I printed out very easily, really! I chose the sailor suit named *Jenny* and the evening gown called *Veronica*. There are several more: a wedding dress, a day dress and overalls.

The featured image and the two pictures below are The Tailor’s Apprentice’s pictures of the *Veronica* pattern.

      

Don’t be afraid of digital patterns: they are easy to use and anyway, Lorna gives very clear instructions on how to download, print  and reassemble them. The pages were clearly marked for re-assembly and the patterns are multi-sized too. Lorna includes well described and illustrated instructions to sew up her patterns: see the pictures below. I found them easy to follow and appreciated her personal notes on making it more *period accurate* if you want to.

So here are more thoughts and comments about Veronica, the evening gown with cape. I chose to sew that one up first because I have a lovely light-weight rayon that came to mind as soon as I saw the pattern on-line. It has a slightly vintage feel to it with its varying sizes of roses in red, yellow and royal blue with green leaves on a white background. I had chosen a similar recent style to use on it, but Lorna’s pattern just hit the mark in interesting details (like a sweetheart neckline and the way the princess line is formed) and of course, the vintage factor. Being a costumer, I always like the more unusual patterns if I am going to use any at all!! It will be perfect for evening wear to take on our little holiday in southern climes in January.

This pattern is for a *proper/formal* evening gown: it is to the ground and includes a separate short capelet. I don’t need a formal gown right now, I want a more casual dress, so I cut it to mid-calf, following the indications of where to shorten it printed on the pattern. The photographs below show the *shorten line* and then how I fold the sides to make cutting easier. I made the capelet though, as the gown is sleeveless and I tend to get cold in the evening, even in summer. This will dress it up perfectly and keep my upper arms protected from the breezes that crop up when the sun goes down.

I love using multi-size patterns, as they can be modified easily at the cutting stage. Shortening the skirt is done mid-way and I like that as I really like wide hems, especially in a flowing fabric like rayon. The heart-shaped neckline is beautiful: the small change I made there was to lengthen and narrow the straps so it would be a little lower and a little less boxy. (Horrors, such a floozy!! hahaha!!)

The unusual, or rather, vintage, detail in the bodice is that the front side pieces don’t go straight up to the armhole: they curve over to the side seam about 4 inches below it. I liked that look.

I made another change as well. The pattern calls for a side closure, which is the way most dresses were done in those years. It makes for a nice centre back piece, undisturbed by a zipper or buttons. If you want to keep the real vintage look, Lorna explains that snaps, hooks or a metal-toothed zipper are best. I prefer to have none, if I can manage getting the dress on without an opening anywhere! So I tried it on after the initial assembling of the dress and it worked. I normally put my dresses on from the top rather than walk into them and pull them up: so very often no zipper is needed to open it up enough to get into it.

The facings were easy to sew on… I always seem to have trouble with that part, but this pattern worked on the first try! 🙂

Once everything had been put together and properly ironed, I decided to top-stitch all the edges: neckline and armholes. It helps to keep the facings inside and gives it a more casual look.

The capelet is short and flowing, with a turn-over collar. I chose not to line it, but I will fringe it. I am planning to use a 12 in. deep satin fringe trim on it to help it stay on my shoulders better as well as a small clasp from my Treasure Box of vintage buttons and clasps. It may slip off too easily otherwise. I haven’t bought the fringe yet. There are not many colours to choose from at my usual shop: white, red, black, navy or yellow. I am leaning towards the red. I like the punch!

Here are a few pictures of my version of Veronica, in this order: front dress, back dress, front with cape, back with cape. I will post new ones once the fringe is on the capelet.

        

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!

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!!