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Monday, 17 July 2017

My 18th Century Virginian Summer - Month One

I've been at the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop for a month now (!). It's hard to put in to words how much I'm learning.  But I'll sure try...

There's of course the technical skills. I've learned so many new techniques!  New stitches, when and where to use them, assembly techniques, trim details, etc. There are so many ways in which my sewing will never be the same again. Gah! Eight weeks is not enough time. I'm beginning to understand why the apprenticeship process is 5 years.

If there's any place to do eighteenth-century research, it's Colonial Williamsburg. Not only do they have a wonderful collection and group of curators, but the knowledge base of the tradespeople and interpreters is greater than I anticipated. As I sew my way through a garment and little research nuggets pop into my head I can just ask, "why am I doing this? Where can I go to find more info? What extant garments have [ruffles, trim, stitching] like this?" I always knew this was the place for me to connect making and research, but I didn't comprehend the depths of research knowledge.

Many staff members have devoted their lives to re-enacting and interpreting. They not only are in costume during the day to help guide visitors or actively work a trade, but they also develop their own research interests based on their work. The depths to which people are willing to share their knowledge is overwhelming. (Seriously, don't start a conversation unless you're prepared to finish it!  😆 )

The biggest challenge I've had in Master's work so far is connecting my sewing knowledge to extant garments through secondary sources. We need the secondary sources to support interpretation of extant garments, but they are not enough. Working in a site like CW where I have ready access to research materials of all kinds is wonderful, but it's a Mecca for textile research. Many of the garments discussed in research articles, like Baumgarten, are housed on site (Linda Baumgarten is the former curator at CW. If you haven't read her work do it NOW).

I'm well on my way to completing my independent project, which of course is an overly ambitious complete outfit. See the lady on the right below.

John Collet, Publisher Carington Bowles, BACHELORS FARE, or BREAD and CHEESE with KISSES, England, London, ca. 1770, Black and white mezzotint with period hand color, Museum Purchase, Acc. No. 1962-204,
http://emuseum.history.org/view/objects/asitem/Objects@18044/80/title-desc?t:state:flow=597f49a5-db40-4deb-8f0c-9ba49bfa9397
The silk quilted petticoat is quilted. I just have the hem binding, pocket slits, and waistband to finish. I made the apron last week, the kerchief and most of the ruffles yesterday. The bows shouldn't take long so I'll likely get those done this week depending on how things go. The gown is the next big piece. Of course I need someone to pattern it for me (oh how I wish I could do that myself!). The gown itself isn't particularly complicated. The trim will take me a good amount of time as it will require a bit of trial and error. 

Caps are my nemesis. The one I made early in my internship almost killed my hands. I learned a new way to do rolled hems, so I anticipate less freak out from my hands, but I'd rather be prepared for the worst case scenario in which I don't get it done rather than push to the point where I can't use my hands at all. I have offers of help from my lovely co-workers as they are eager to see it completed, too!

I'm busily embroiled in schoolwork as well. Internships aren't just sewing projects, much to my chagrin.  I have weekly assignments to complete where I connect my sewing and research, plus a final paper I'm gearing up for. I did a research project in the spring where I connected the physicality of sewing to interpreting the past. Perfectly timed for a project like this. 

I've been ruminating on the process of sewing. I'm learning at such a fast pace that it's difficult to keep up with the reflection needed for a project like this. I've been thinking about how my sewing has changed over the past few weeks. The thought of making something entirely by hand has always intimidated me, if for no other reason than I wasn't sure my hands could handle it. But they can! It took a few weeks for them to acclimatize to sewing 40 hours a week (they prefer 32 hours 😆), but now things are easier. I'm still working on consistency, but I can do the tiny stitches and hand bound eyelets without consideration. I can do it without a machine. I can create with my hands alone. This is something that will forever change my sewing and who I am as a sewist. 

As if I needed another reason for fierce independence... 

I'm also fighting the clock to finish my Costume College gala gown in time. I've calculated about 25 hours worth of work left to do. I'm focusing on completing all the components right now so I can get them put together fairly quickly if needed. I've finally finished the sleeve petals, which are fiddly little scallops bound in bias. Now I get to move onto the skirt petals, which are just bigger scallops bound in bias. Eep!

Plus I need to finish my presentation for Costume College. I know what I want to say, and I have most of the pictures I need thanks to my FEP family. It's mostly planned in my head, but it's probably not more than 25% done.  That's what cross-country plane rides are for, yes?

So, that's the scoop. I'm doing all the things as per usual. But it's perfect :)



Thursday, 29 June 2017

Gala Gown 2017

As I planned out my sewing for Costume College this year I had to rethink all my plans. I had planned a huge project that involved a fully beaded 1912 gown. Between school and now my internship, it wasn't going to happen. Maybe next year.

I settled on this floofy number:

1828 Dress, Victoria and Albert Museum
I've never been interested in the 1820s to 30s look.  But something about this dress took me in.  The more I read about it and discovered it was likely made from 18th century fabric, the more I fell in love. Plus, it's a fairly simple design. With the right fabric it could be a fancy frock.  And those bias scallops! Yum!

Finding fabric was the tricky part. I wanted an 18th century-esque stripe that was ideally green and purple. Alas, no such fabric could be procured. I was lucky enough to hit up the LA garment district on reading week and found some green and gold stripe that suits perfectly. You'll have to wait and see the final dress ;)

I got my corded petticoat done just in time to leave for CW.  Literally.  Just in time.  Like 3 hours before I left my house. Ugh.  I already hate it and wish I could remake it, but whatever. I hope it does the job. 

I brought all my sewing supplies with me and am slowing moving through the process. At first I was concerned about hand sewing the entire thing because it was going to take forever.  And I remembered, I'm here to hand sew everything... so yeah, that works out well. *face palm* 

I've cut all the pieces and am carefully hoarding them in my room.  The only part I'm not doing by hand is the making the piping.  I visited a friend with a zipper foot this week so it's all ready to go! Now I just need to get sewing. The dress itself should be fairly straightforward. As you see all the front panels are at an angle and match stripes.  By hand is definitely the way to go! 

All the bias!

The last piece I need to figure out it is the sleeve supports. I'm using silk taffeta that will need a little help staying afloat. I'll be following this tutorial from Fresh Frippery as a simple way to add a little floof. I love the idea of using tulle so they stay light and fluffy.

I also need to make a hair piece.  I'm terrible when it comes to doing my own hair. I've got a good grasp on regency, so I'll use that knowledge to make this work.  I'm planning to do something like this: 

1828 Abendfrisur

I bought all the necessary pieces with me and will attempt to make something passable while I'm here. I may invest in a foam head as that will be easier to hold things in place.  Fingers crossed!


Hopefully it'll be done before I go! I'm looking forward to hand sewing a gown. I'm feeling more confident in my hand sewing skills so this is a perfect opportunity to show them off!

And thankfully it'll fit perfectly in the July challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly.  I'll complete at least one challenge this year. ;)

Cheers,
~M


Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Settling In with Gratitude

I'm starting to settle in to Colonial life. I'm two weeks in to my internship now. I've made a few friends. I've joined a dance group for the summer. I have a routine. I can successfully lace my stays in less than 5 minutes each morning.

But as with all happy endings they start with a bit of trouble. Week one consisted of me wandering in the heat and humidity several times, once I ended up with a bit of heat stroke. C'est la vie. It wouldn't be me if I didn't make a few poor decisions along the way.

Williamsburg has a company called Lyft, which is basically Uber or Tap car.  They have Uber too, but it always says there are no cars in my area and I have to pay more for a fancier car.  Seriously Uber, get it together. Now that I have more access to transportation, and am willing to ask for help if needed (no, seriously. It happened!), it's a little easier to get my bearings. I've only been super homesick once so far. I've been far too busy!

I've been working on lots of projects at work. So far I've worked on a pin cushion, work bag, quilted petticoat, gown and petticoat in a day, a cap, and fringe trim. My stitches are getting smaller and more consistent. I've gone from 8 stitches per inch to about 20 per inch without difficulty.

In a few weeks I'll be jetting off to Costume College. I barely had time to finish my corded petticoat before I left let alone my gala gown. A blog post with more on that coming soon! I'll be hand sewing my gown if for no other reason than I'm hand sewing everything else so might as well.

For now, I'll leave off with a huge thank you to my community. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here. Truly! I wouldn't be making amazing things and meeting wonderful people. This internship was almost entirely funded by you! I hope I can do your generosity proud.

Cheers,
~M

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Adventure Awaits!

I've been a tad absent since the start of the year.  I just started my Master's degree in January, which was, well... I survived.  I'll just leave it at that.

As part of my degree I can take an internship (and get credit). When an opportunity popped up, on Facebook of all places, for an internship at Colonial Williamsburg I knew I had to apply. I think it's fairly competitive, and wasn't expecting to be accepted. The fact that I got an interview made me really proud of myself! But, I did get it.  I GOT IT!

Oh man, that was the easy part. Between figuring out how things would go through school and work, figuring out finances, not receiving any travel grants I applied for, and trying to figure out if a visa was needed... it's been quite the journey to get here. I was fairly convinced it wasn't going to happen. But here we are, a few days before I leave, and I've finally realized that I'm going to Virginia.  Like, on Monday...



Super excited to learn from the Journeywomen at Colonial Williamsburg, but I'm also delighted to spend the summer in Virginia. It holds a special place in my family history. When my Great Grandfather (John Smith, no joke!) first landed in North America he came to Virginia. He thought it was the most beautiful place he'd ever seen. When he returned to Wales and my Grandmother was born a few years later she was given the middle name Virginia. And I was named after her.  I've driven through the state before, but as a small child. Now I get to go and see what my Great Grandfather saw in this place. I get to live in the place that holds such a key piece to my family's history.  I'm delighted!

Even better is that I get to spend 8 weeks in the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop. There's so many things I want to learn! I was to learn whipped gathers and how to make a giant floofy cap. I desperately need to understand how eighteenth century sleeves are set in because I cannot for the life of me figure that out! And I want to know how to bind stays in leather, how to make trims, etc. I'll totally be in knowledge sponge mode!

Watch this space for regular updates. I'll be blogging more frequently, but differently than before. It will be more about the adventure of it all rather than strictly documenting sewing projects like usual.

I'm still attending Costume College at the end of July. I was hoping to have everything done by the time I leave, but alas. I'm fairly certain my Gala gown will be entirely hand sewn as I just need to get other projects done before I go.  As long as I can conquer that blasted corded petticoat, I'm fine.  It'll be fine.

I have three more days of work, one day off to pack, and then I leave Monday!  Please take this time to sacrifice a chicken (or tofu, whatevs) in my honour to the travel gods.

If you're on Instagram, watch the hashtag #yegsewistdoesCW for hilarious and awkward travel photos. Silly faces abound.

See you in Virginia!
~M

Friday, 16 December 2016

Vintage Capsule Wardrobe Update - Simplicity 1590 Blouse

I've been working my way towards a capsule wardrobe for some time.  A capsule wardrobe (at least my interpretation) is one where you own less items of clothing, but they all coordinate.  It avoids the daily 'what should I wear?'  or 'where's the matching blouse?'.  And since I'm truly lazy about mornings (seriously, just bring me tea and back away!), it helps that I can just grab whatever is clean and looked put together.

For my capsule, I've selected purple, blue/navy, turquoise, and green, with the occasional hint of yellow accessories.  Black and white are acceptable as long as they match at least three outfits.  I tend towards more vintage styles anyway so it just made sense to focus on using more vintage patterns for the items I make.

Enter the Vintage Capsule Wardrobe Sewing group!  First, so lovely!  We may not be interested in the same era or colour-scheme, but it's wonderful to have a like-minded group for encouragement.  For December they've created a blouse sew-along.  I struggle with blouses!  It's so much more fun to make a fancy frock or skirt so that's where I focus my energy, but with my job now being in a costume shop trousers and a top are much easier!

 


I picked out several items to sew for December.  Ideally, I'd like to get three finished before I start school in January as who knows what my time will be like!

 


I started with one that's been in the UFO (unfinished object) pile for longer than I'm willing to admit.  I found some lovely green rayon with navy dots awhile back and decided it would be great for Simplicity 1590.  So cute, right?

 


I couldn't remember how far I'd gotten, but I just had to finish it first.  And I did!  I basically had to finish the front edges of the peplum and buttons and buttonholes.  No idea why I left it when it was so close to being done! 

 


The pattern instructions were a bit interesting.  As always, I wrinkled my nose and made up my own. 

One new blouse in the closet!  Huzzah!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

1805 Summer Bonnet

Oh my heavens!  I completely forgot to tell you all about my summer bonnet.  Let me do so now.

After last summer's Promenade I wanted a light, airy bonnet for the inconsistent summer here in Alberta.  June could snow, rain, or scorch us, or quite possibly all three!  July is usually quite warm.  August could be the same as June, though typically in the reverse order.  (I promise I don't jest!  It snowed the day after our end of August wedding)

I discovered this lovely bonnet by FestiveAttyre:

http://www.festiveattyre.com/2010/07/building-straw-braid-bonnet.html?m=1

The unlined straw is exactly what I'd been looking for!  While in LA I discovered California Millinery, which has an entire section of straw braids of every shape and colour.  I came home with three different kinds, one being a navy blue that would suit my outfit nicely.

Festive Attyre's blog was the only useful source I could find regarding where to start.  I tried a few Facebook groups, but they all suggested a buckram base, which I was hoping to avoid.  As usual, I just decided to give it a go and hope for the best.

I made my frame out of bristol board, did a quick check for fit and shape, and then started pinning my straw.  As I only had a short length I decided to start with the brim and work backwards.  I was hoping for a longer bonnet, but buying materials in a foreign place with a long line behind you makes it nearly impossible to think straight.

I quickly spritzed my straw with water before starting to pin it to the base.  It did nothing to help and I was so frustrated I nearly gave up on the whole thing.  I remembered reading something somewhere about soaking straw to get it to behave, but only for a short time.  I soaked my straw for 25 seconds in tepid water until the dye started to leak out and I panicked and pulled it out.  I let it sit in a strainer for a few minutes before starting.



You'll notice I wrapped my base in plastic wrap so it didn't get too wet.



From there I just started pinning.  And pinning.  And pinning.



The dye didn't fade at all to the naked eye, but my hands were purple-ish blue for a week!

I decided to pin the entire thing before sewing as I thought for sure I'd make a mess of it.  By the time I finished pinning the crown the brim was dry enough to start sewing.  I used a sturdy thread and just started stitching, removing the pins and I went.

 

I wanted the brim flipped under at the back so I basically just made a bucket hat.  It was a rather boring shape until I flipped the back, close pinned it in place, and let it dry again before stitching it down.

While waiting for it to dry we went to Chintz and Co.  It's one of our favourite stores, though we mostly spend time at the back in the fabric section.  It's the only place in Edmonton you can get really nice quality silks and velvets.  They are mostly a home decor store and so have excellent quality petersham and faux flowers.  I was able to grab a few items to match my bonnet, and then finish that same evening.

Ta da!



My very, very late HSM entry:
What the item is: Regency Summer Bonnet
The Challenge: #6 Travel
Fabric/Materials: Straw braid, faux flowers, feathers, 
Pattern: My own
Year: 1805
Notions: thread, ribbon
How historically accurate is it? Very.  Based on a fashion plate from 1805 and entirely hand-made
Hours to complete: Oi.  About 16-20
First worn: August 21st, 2016
Total cost: $40 CAD



A bonnet fit for a good frolic!



Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Pride and Prejudice Ball 2016

O.  M.  G.

I've scarcely had time to sleep let alone to write!  What an adventure the past few months have been.  After the May Regency Costume Fair I met so many lovely new clients!  Gowns and tailcoats were ordered.  Fabric purchased.  Mock ups were made and fitted.

And then at the second Costume Fair in September I had more inquiries about custom gowns!  With the ball fast approaching I hunkered down and put the pedal to the metal, so to speak.  I don't think I've ever sewn so fast in my life!  I made 35 custom pieces, all due and worn in one weekend.  That doesn't include in the various reticules and cravats I made, or any fans or feathers.

I'm pleasantly overwhelmed by the abundance!  It was a joy to meet with so many lovely people just as crazy as I am who want to join our Regency events.  How lovely it is to grow our community in such an immense way, and in such a short time no less!

We managed take group shots both evenings, which I'll post at a later date once they are available.

For now I'll leave you with this gem.  (Do please see Nanc Price's beautiful photos here: Saturday Photos .  I'm so pleased to have her as the photographer for this event!)


Do check out the hashtag #AustenYEG for more lovely photos!