Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sewing Roll

For a while I have seen many Swedish textile crafters, historical costumiers and the like make sewing rolls (or mesma/marsma as thay are often called). Sewing rolls don’t have a historic base in most of Sweden (unlike the housewives of other places), as it seems to have been a Sami thing here, and, as Anna pointed out in a discussion about them, as in so many cases all over the world, the majority of a countries population, thinking themselves very civilized, don’t want much to do with the indigenous people’s traditions. It is however a very clever thing for when you need to bring your sewing kit along when travelling, which is probably why the Sami used it, being nomads. As many people today go away from home more or less frequently, and many sewing people bring their projects with them on vacation, to school, work, the beach, sewing groups etc., it comes in handy. I’ve been meaning to make one myself for years, but somehow I never got round to it, as there have been so many other things to do. The past few weeks however, the making of sewing rolls has really taken off in a sewing group on facebook, and I fell for the pressure and finally made one. 

Neatly rolled up, with braided wool ties keeping it closed.

As I intend it for modern use I could go for whatever design I wanted. I chose to be inspired by 19th century rural folk textiles from my county Skåne, and the thing turned out to be a nice marriage between a historic item from the far North of Sweden and historic textiles from the far South (which would still considered quite far North by most of the world).

I used heavy wool left over from my folk costume skirt (same as I used in my pincushion), and embroidered it with wool yarns - wool embroidery of high quality is often seen in cushions and covers in this area during the 18th and 19thcenturies. 

 The outside.

 The lining is made from lighter wool, as are two of the pockets and the bound edge.

Proof of a mishap and change of plans: originally I had another embroidery here 
(my initials and the current year), but it had a quite severe, military look about it that I didn't like. 
I unpicked the embroidery and did this instead, when the pocket was already stitched 
firmly in place - thus the now uneven edges. Sigh.

The pockets are all lined with striped cotton, slightly resembling the ones often seen in country women’s and children’s aprons in 19th century Skåne.

The small pocket will be good for holding Nalbinding needles and such.

The metal button is supposed to bring the thought to the silver buckles, buttons, chains, clasps etc. worn with the folk costumes for best. 

 The lid of the pocket closes with a sewn loop.

The bottom pocket is made from the test knitting I made before beginning my folk costume spedetröja a few years ago. It is bound with a strip of silk, as the finest spedetröjor was. I’d been saving the test piece for this purpose, thinking it too pretty to throw away. 

 Knitted pocket bound with silk.

I’m quite pleased with how the sewing roll turned out – it’s almost a little piece of art in itself, and will look nice in my sewing room, and when I bring it along with me.

Detail of the embroidery on the outside.

I have a new skirt to post about as well, that have been pending for a couple of weeks, but I need some photos first, and in my present state of late pregnancy, I don’t often feel like going through all the hassle of a photo shoot, not even a small one.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pre-Raphaelite Medieval-ish Dress

Many years ago, at the beginning of my living history days, I made a dress inspired by medieval ones. Well, it was quite a bit inspired by pre-Raphaelite and fantasy takes on the Middle Ages as well – it was made to be used at the premiere of The Return of the King after all.

It is an interesting mix of period construction (wool fabric; more or less straight panels for the front and back with all shaping in the side and back seams; width given by set in gores; hand stitching; hand made eyelets; felled seams) and not so period elements (a combination of cotton and linen thread; embroidery on a dress style that usually had none, with the embroidery design inspired from the margin of a manuscript – and made in linen, and, what irks me most; cross lacing at the back) that reflects the stage I was at then, having gained some knowledge, but still letting myself be way too influenced by make believe. Still, it’s a very pretty dress I think, worthy of a bit of recognition.

Even when the dress was new the sleeves were a bit too tight, making bending the arms uncomfortable. Several years ago I took them of intending to make them wider, but never got round to it. Now, finally, I made the changes by putting in a gusset in each sleeve seam – luckily I had some of the dress fabric left. Thus, this UFO/Make Do and Mend-dress was done in good time for the Fairytale challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly. 

The dress is still too small for me (my figure has changed quite a bit since becoming a mother) so I plan to sell the dress to someone who might give it a proper life – there are some very high quality LARPs and LARPers here in Sweden, and this dress might be perfect in a fantasy lady’s wardrobe. 

It is modelled by my cousin M, for whose help I’m very grateful, as I never had decent pictures of the dress before. 

We were both pleased with how her hair came out as well (especially the fact that her fringe did not show at all) – not very medieval to be sure, but good for the “1911-goes-medieval-Sleeping-Beauty”or pre-Raphaelite look I had in mind. 

The Challenge: #6 Fairytale
Fabric: Wool
Pattern: none, draped my own
Year: “1911 goes medieval” 
Notions: Cotton and linen thread
How historically accurate is it? As a medieval-ish dress – not very much as it’s a blend of period and fantasy. As a 1911 try at medieval – too period correct; it would probably have been constructed differently at that time.
Hours to complete: For the changes I made, maybe two or three?
First worn: Since changed - for the pictures
Total cost: none at this time as everything was in my stash

Friday, 21 February 2014

Early 19th Century Shortgown

At pretty much the last minute I decided I wanted to make something for the third HSF 2014 challenge. The theme was pink, and I had a piece (160x110 cm) of pink cotton print in my stash that screamed it wanted to be an early 19th century shortgown. It’s what I bought it for in the first place, but I got a bit hesitant when it was time to cut – was the print period enough? I posted the question at the HSF facebookpage, and enough knowledgeable people said it was close enough for me to feel it ok to use. I did a bit of research on shortgowns to decide what style I wanted. I was limited by the amount of fabric I had and the fact that I’m rather bigger than I usually am, and will grow larger before I shrink again. It had to fit a range of sizes, and I also wanted it to be breastfeeding friendly. 

In the end I decided on a fitted back and a flexible, drawstring front. I had wanted fuller and longer sleeves, and a longer skirt, but even with piecing this is all I got out of it – I didn’t feel quite as ambitious when it came to piecing as I did last year with the mid 19th century dress. Still, I think it looks rather nice.

I was going for a lower middle class everyday look, the kind of clothes you might wear while cooking, tending to the children, sorting laundry before sending it of and such, so nothing too fancy. 

I drafted and adjusted the pattern myself, and the shortgown is entirely hand sewn with period stitches. Linen thread is used, unbleached for the inside, brown for visible stitching. There are a few pleats at the front to allow extra fullnes over the bust without adding bulk to the skirt.

The bodice is lined in the back with plain cotton, and has a loose lining in front which closes by pins.

The sleeves have cuffs that closes with sewn loops and self fabric covered plastic buttons – not period but it’s what I had at home and it will never show. I covered the buttons like this, as described in “Kvinnligt Mode under Två Sekel” (Female Fashion during Two Centuries) by Britta Hammar and Pernilla Rasmussen. All the stitching was also taken from their descriptions of extant clothing.  

 Wrap the button in fabric.

Cut off excess, but leave a shank.

Stitch to sleeve.

Wrap the thread around a few times and secure. Make the loop for closing.

Flounces, that is seen in many extant garments from this time, finish the sleeves. This kind of sleeve treatment, with the closed flounce and an opening just by the cuff, is seen in two extant dresses at Kulturen in Lund, Sweden. The sleeves have short, less full under sleeves from the lining fabric.

The skirt is sewn smoothly at the front and sides, and is cartridge pleated to the back, as most extant lower class dresses in Sweden. Unfortunately there are no surviving shortgowns here that I know of. 

All in all I’m pleased with how it turned out (though it makes me look huge at the moment), but next time I will make the armholes even deeper in the back, push back the shoulder seem a bit more, and have more material to work with. Also, I intend to wear this over stays, but at the moment mine don’t fit, and who knows if I’ll get the maternity ones finished before they’re of no use… As a result the shortgown doesn’t sit as well as it should at the moment as the pinned lining does all the supporting.

The Challenge: #3 Pink

Fabric: Cotton print, plain cotton for the lining

Pattern: Drafted my own from pictures and patterns taken from extant examples

Year: Ca. 1810 

Notions: Linen thread, cotton tape, plastic (!) buttons

How historically accurate is it? Pretty much; it’s constructed like period examples, hand stitched with period stitches, using period correct materials for the most part. 

Hours to complete: Not sure… for such a simple garment it took quite a bit of time: I was quite sick of it in the end. I’ve worked on it between two and four hours most days during the past week, but then I’ve also had “help” from my toddler most of that time. 

First worn: For the pictures

Total cost: Nothing at this time, everything came from my stash.

Friday, 17 January 2014

A Petticoat Makeover

Though I didn’t manage to be as active in The Historical Sew Fortnightly during the latter part of last year as I would have liked, I’m ready to give it another go this year. It was way too fun not to, even when I didn’t actually make anything. Just admiring what everyone else did was rewarding.

The first challenge of this year was Make Do and Mend. I didn’t think I’d be able to participate in this one, as we just moved and I’ve had a lot to do getting everything in order. But when I found this petticoat while unpacking a box I thought I might be able to finish it in time after all. I didn’t - life got in between - but I’ll post about it anyway as it’s not unreasonably late.

 The petticoat made over. Excuse the lack of stays, I have barely begun working on my maternity pair.
Also excuse the bad quality pictures, I still have not got a new camera. 

This is a mid 19th century petticoat I made when I was about 17, now 13 years ago. It didn’t fit me very well any longer, hardly surprising after so many years and a baby. It was hand stitched, made of old, good quality cotton sheets. But it had simple, not too even gathers, closed with a button and sewn bar, and the opening in the back had been ripped. It needed some work.

The “before” picture, taken a few years ago. 
I had a much more defined waist then...

I had begun working on it last autumn, but the quilted petticoat got higher priority. Before it was put away I had remade the waistband, opening and closure:
- I made the waistband a little longer, and stitched the skirt to it with stroked gathers.
- I made the back opening deeper to prevent further ripping, and made a stitched bar at the bottom of it, as an extra safety measure.
- Instead of the old closure I put in ties, as that is by far the most common closure on Swedish 19th century petticoats.

 The work done in the autumn.

As the petticoat was now sitting lower to prevent bulk at the waist, it was too long. This was good, as I wanted more tucks at the hem. The only thing left to do then, when I unpacked the petticoat the other day, was sewing two new tucks. It might have turned out a tad too short for, say 1850’s and 60’s, but as I plan to make some 1830’s and 40’s dresses sometime when I get a waist again, and would prefer if my old petticoats could work for that, I’m not bothered. For the later decades the petticoats would almost have to be a bit wider ayway.

 The petticoat might look very short in the picture, but it’s sitting
over my bump, so several inches higher than it will normally do.

All in all, I’m rather pleased with how it turned out, and happy to give this old petticoat a longer life. 

The Challenge: #1 Make Do and Mend

Fabric: Sturdy and tightly woven cotton sheeting – they don’t make it like that anymore

Pattern: none, looked at extant examples

Year: 1830’s-1860’s 

Notions: Cotton thread, cotton tape

How historically accurate is it? Very; it’s constructed like period examples, hand stitched with period stitches, using period correct materials. 

Hours to complete: Not sure… ten perhaps for all the changes, three or four for the tucks?

First worn: For the pictures

Total cost: none at this time, everything was from stash

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Minion for Little B

Little B has a great liking for the minions in the ‘Despicable Me’ movies. He’s never seen the movies, as he’s a bit too young, but he’s seen some of the short films and music videos starring the minions. A while back I saw a few examples of amigurumi minions on Ravelry and decided to make him one. I began in November, and finished it this morning, Christmas Eve, the day we celebrate and give presents in Sweden, after sitting up half the night working on it. I have had a few other things that also needed doing, what with us moving in a week and everything….

Anyway, I used one of the free patterns on Ravelry as a starting point, but didn’t like how it turned out, so in the end I improvised a great deal. I had planned to let the minion have two eyes, like this fellow:

Unfortunately I found, at half past one last night, that the grey crochet yarn I thought I had was nowhere to be found. Luckily I did have a small amount of grey embroidery floss, which was only just enough to make a (rather shallow) Cyclops goggle, like what this one has:

Phew. It vexed me a bit that the tiny buttons I had planned to go on the front of the trousers were packed and impossible to get to, but I can stitch them on later. I had also planned to embroider a G on the front, but that too will have to wait - if it ever will happen…. I did have some scraps of white cotton fabric that had not yet been packed though, and I had left my embroidery floss unpacked on purpose. This morning I embroidered an eye, stitched it to the minion, embroidered a smile and then attached the goggle.

Finished. I’m quite happy with the result, despite the few miscalculations, and even better, B is happy with it. Good thing too, as it is the only Christmas present any of us got today: we’ll save the rest of our gifts for when we have moved (not that we ever give much; we’re quite restrained when it comes to that. Better one or two things really appreciated than several that you don’t care that much about, just for the sake of it). We don’t really need more stuff to carry.

Despite us celebrating Christmas amongst boxes and cartons, we are happy. We have each other, we have good food, we’re healthy, we’ll be moving to a new home in little over a week, we’ll be having a new baby next summer. God has blessed us greatly.

I hope you all have a nice Christmas (or just a nice week if you don’t celebrate it), with lots of joy, love and inspiration.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Why Historically Correct?

I’m pondering a future blog post for my medieval blog and my 19th century blog (both in Swedish), aimed at beginner living historians/historic costumiers, or those who haven’t even started out yet. While I know there are many reasons for choosing to make historical or historically inspired clothing, for me personally historic correctness (or as close as we can reasonably get) is important for several reasons:

- Almost everyone who sees you in “period” clothing will assume it’s correct. That may well spread old misconceptions further, or create new ones, unless you’ve done your research and made good interpretations of what would have been worn. Also, as clothing usually reflects a country’s economy, political and religious views, traditions, current events and how they view people (men and women, adults and children, rich and poor, natives and foreigners, etc.) at any given time in history, wearing the wrong things will also add to fabricating history. As we see enough of that in most “historic” movies and TV-series, we don’t really need any more….

- You will never really experience what a historic fashion feels like unless you actually wear it: that you use the right materials, the right cut, and combine the garments (all layers) in the proper way is crucial. That experience will advance your understanding of how it felt to live during a certain time: how people moved, sat, what posture was desired etc. It will also deepen your knowledge of why all those layers where used.

Jørgen Roed, "Haven med den gamle døbefont" 
("The garden with the old babtismal font"), 1850.

- Doing it wrong may not only be unsightly, it can also be uncomfortable or even dangerous; a wool/polyester blend coat getting too close to an open flame and melting into your skin; heavy petticoats without stays or corset to take the weight of your waist and hips; man made fabrics getting too hot in summer or too cold in winter; the wrong hairstyle throwing of the delicate balance of a fashionable look; a bosom unsuported by stays or corset making the prettiest dress look frumpy.

- You’ll save both time and money doing it right, as many beginners want to upgrade after a year or two anyway. Invest time in researching now, and save time and money redoing everything later. Mind, research is never completed, and you’ll always find something or other in your wardrobe that needs changing….

- The resale value on good, period correct items are reasonably high, if you decide you don’t like the hobby, the period or just want to have a new something.

- It’s fun! It’s an interactive way to learn history, it's creative and will teach you new skills, and perfect the ones you already have. While spending time browsing blogs, forums and homepages you’ll get new friends all over the world, as interested in this as you are. The knowledge in the collective hive-mind of living historians and historical costumiers in the world is vast and ever increasing. Not taking part is missing out on a lot of knowledge and well needed help.

I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons why period correctness matter and I want to find as many as possible. Please share your thoughts on the subject, be they continuations of mine or something completely different!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A Little Announcement

At least one of you guessed that the indisposition and weight gain I mentioned in my last post had the same origin.  It is indeed so; if all goes well we will receive a new little member to our family in early June.

The gingerbread family is of my own making. We thought it would 
be a fun way to announce, and in keeping with the upcoming season.

I’ve felt quite ill for the past two months, worse than I did with B. It’s slowly getting better now though. I’m praying for an easier delivery than last time, and as sweet, healthy and clever a child as little B is, but in it's own way. I’m very much looking forward to having a new little baby again, though I find my almost two year-old as wonderful as any child could hope to be. He’s developing new skills and making new discoveries daily, and has such funny little ways and habits. Each age has its charm, and that is as it should be.