Thursday, 29 January 2015

One Bodice, Two Looks

A while ago I took out an old UFO, and decided to finish it. It is a hand stitched wool bodice lined with linen, fully interlined, and boned in front. It also laces in front over a half boned stomacher. (Meanwhile, that was a good invention – so easy to adjust to size!) The bodice is of good quality, but not quite historical. For other costuming adventures it would be perfectly fine though. As I don’t see myself having much use of it, I mean to sell it. Still, it is nice to have good pictures of the things you’ve made, and I hope that good pictures will make the bodice more desirable for potential buyers. To show that this simple bodice can work for a variety of characters, I've had two little photo shoots this week.

The Washerwoman
In Sweden there is a popular LARP series called Krigshjärta (War Heart). It has several different cultures, with very different religions/ideologies, social life, politics, and, of course, dress. Though I’ve never attended a LARP in my life (though I have lots of friends who do so frequently), I have always been a bit intrigued by one of the peoples, the Jorgaler. This people are a highly religious group, who see it as a severe faux pas to outshine what their god has created, and thus dress in a very simple way, keeping trim and decorations to a minimum, almost glorying in what is lowly as it where. Bodices and skirts/dresses are worn by the women, as are some form of kerchief on their heads. Tobias and I considered going to one of the Krigshjärta LARPs and play a couple of Jorgaler when we were newly-weds, but what with pregnancies, babies and life in general, that never happened. I was still interested in composing such an outfit though, to see if I could make plain look pretty.

So I had the bodice. The rest I was pretty sure I could dig out from my historical clothing and fantasy costume wardrobes, and my fabric stash. It worked rather well I think. I used the same old hobbit shift, an 18th century linen petticoat, a raw silk skirt for the apron, and a piece of fabric for the kerchief. Medieval wool hose and leather shoes completed the outfit.

As props I used an old laundry basket that usually holds toys, an even older washing bat, an inherited copper tub, and several historical linen shirts, shifts, braies and aprons. I lugged it all out in the garden and took pictures using the trusty self timer, a dear friend when documenting my costuming adventures. 

I like how the bodice looks very plain and… almost boring really, when laced with a neutral cord. It doesn’t attract any notice at all worn like this. Actually, I love this outfit! It would have looked better with a wool skirt though, and a larger kerchief.

The Hobbit Larder
I keep exploring different ways to dress hobbit women. I have liked both the styles I’ve tried so far (the bodice/skirt and the dress), but as I have a skirt trimmed with the same fabric this bodice is madefrom, I just had to combine them for a hobbit to wear. My hair actually did get curly this time round – rolling it up on rags for more than 24 hours did the trick. I don’t think I like this hobbit look as much as the others I’ve tried, but it still looks nice. I think it’s the hair – I didn’t manage to get it quite hobbity, even though it was properly curly. It actually looks too frivolous, if that is possible for one of the merry little people. More experimenting is needed!

I wore an 18th century-ish shift, two petticoats that are hardly seen, the wool skirt, and some fabric from the stash in my hair.

For these pictures I transformed a corner of my sewing room to a larder – a very suitable setting for a hobbit. Good thing we have lots of appropriate bowls, jars, jugs, cups and baskets to use as props… 

Using a cord that matched the skirt made a really nice look for this outfit; it became a decoration in itself. It also makes the bodice quite versatile - get cords in the same colours as your skirts, and you have a bodice that will match pretty much anything :)

Conclusions: colours make a lot of difference; it transformed this simple bodice from being dreary to being delightful.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Winter in the Shire

I finished a new dress recently. I mean to wear it for everyday (yes, it does work, when combined with other tops and cardigans), but it also works nicely for a Hobbit – which was sort of the point. As costumed photos are the most fun I decided to do a Hobbit photo shoot. I asked a friend and her kids over for lunch, cake baking, and some picture taking. 

 The petticoats have been worn quite a bit on their own since 
made last spring and summer, and have faded a little in the laundry.

The day before my intended photo shoot the boys and I took a walk in the neighbourhood to find a good spot for it, and in the end a corner of the playground proved to be the best. A few apple trees grow there and the bushes are dense enough to hide any modern things. I doubt that Samwise Gamgee, or any other hobbit with pride in his garden, would let them grow wild in this way though. Taking the pictures in the playground was very convenient, as it made it possible for the children to play while we took pictures.
There was a little bit of frozen snow on the ground in the shadowy places, which was nice, as it made it really look like winter, and not just like autumn. But oh! was it cold for my feet! They were numb by the time I put on woollen stockings and boots. To think that many people through history (and still today) had to go barefoot in the winter is very sobering.

So, the dress. It’s made from the same fabric (an old cotton curtain from a charity shop) as my old hobbit petticoat, also worn in the pictures. When I overdyed the paisley fabric for my 1840’s maternity dress, I tossed in the hobbit petticoat and remaining fabric as well, as I prefer more muted colours. I wanted a vaguely 18th century feel to this dress, but without the need to wear stays under it. The front panels are cut on the bias, for visual interest; in the rest of the bodice I tried to align the plaid nicely. The bodice closes with hooks and eyes in front. I pleated the skirt to make the vertical stripes in the bodice continue down the skirt. The corners of the skirt are softly curved, and all edges but centre front are bound with bias tape. The whole dress is hand stitched, because… well, I like hand sewing. Mind, I will really try to become friends with my sewing machine this year, when my non historical sewing is concerned. It does go much faster.

The tricky thing with making tight fitting clothes after having a baby though is that you loose weight for months and months– even if a bodice fits really tight when first made, it’s soon too large. Breastfeeding also plays tricks with your figure, not only in a longer perspective, but on a daily basis. A bit frustrating, that. As the dress no longer supply enough support, I’ll need supporting underwear instead. I’m working on that, as my whole wardrobe would benefit from it. I contemplated boning the bodice, but as I want this to be comfortable when going about my housework, playing and cuddling with my babies (without having to resort to a historical pattern of movement) I didn’t really like that idea. Ah well, in the pictures I try to look like a simple hobbit woman popping out to the root cellar on a usual workday – maybe she’s just wearing the Shire female version of a grubby, saggy pair of overalls or old sweats?   

The dress was worn over the shift I made for my first hobbit costume, and the same two skirts. I filled in the neckline with a piece of brown cotton for a kerchief: the dark colour seems suitable at this time of year, and for doing chores. It doesn’t really show in the pictures, but it’s pinned with a reproduction brass pin. I also wore my knitted wool mitts.      

And the hair… I put my hair up in pin curls the day before, and wore a thin scarf tied round my head the whole day, to the great amusement of little B. He’s got a good sense of humour that boy :) I slept on the curls, and didn’t take them out until an hour before the photo shoot, but do you think my hair got curly? No, of course not. What little resemblance to curls there were had soon disappeared, even though I sprayed each curl to an inch of its life as I took it out. So, though this is the kind of volume I wish my hair would normally have, it isn’t exactly hobbity. Meeh. I could have used the hobbit bonnet to hide the hair malfunction, but straw don’t seem quite the thing for winter... A bonnet wouldn’t be required for just fetching apples from storage, so I decided to forgo headwear in spite of the hair. Well, at least it wasn’t straighter than straight, as it usually is – that’s something.


And as a bonus, here’s a picture of a squirrel that was foraging for food in and by the trees at the playground. 

He didn’t give any notice to us at all - but then I didn’t reach for a stone.

Monday, 5 January 2015

A Most Peculiar Mademoiselle - Now on Facebook

To celebrate the new year, and having passed 300 followers on the blog, I decided to do what several other bloggers have done recently, and get a Facebook page. I have one for my Swedish "historical clothing for beginners" blogs, but felt this needed one too. You can find me here.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Looking back on 2014

This year has flown past! So many things have happened, but as most of them have concerned my personal and family life, not that much of it has been said on the blog. So what have happened….

We moved to a new town, a year ago Friday. Amongst other nice things (such as good friends only a one minute walk away) it also meant I got a sewing room – what a luxury! As we don’t have money to spend on storage at the moment, it’s a bit of a mess, with fabrics, notions, period clothing, etc. everywhere, but still - happy me!

 The mirror still on the floor, parts of my folk costume and some 
14th century hoods hanging on the door, lots of white linen and plain cotton in the shelf.

 Hats, some fabric (coarse linen for a gambeson, wool for period clothing, fabrics for contemporary projects), 
a loom for weaving tapes and ribbons, boxes with UFO:s, my seldom used sewing machine, 
this and that.... The cupboard is filled with striped, checked, and reproduction print fabrics.

I was pregnant and very tired for the first half of the year, and so didn’t get all rhat much sewing done, but I did manage to sew:

 a sewing roll inspired by local folk costumes

 a babynest for the baby to sleep in

 a patchwork quilt for the baby

I also, thanks to a cousin and a sister who modelled them for me, got pictures of a couple of dresses (the Pre-Raphaelite Medieval, and the Elvish Maiden) I made years and years ago, but never had decent pictures of.

Then little baby H arrived, and pretty much everything had to adapt to his needs, and economy was still a factor. Being a student family with two young children, that is not surprising. We didn’t go to any events this summer, at least not any that we bothered to dress in historical clothes for. One can still take pictures though, and when the baby was a week old I swaddled him, dressed myself and B in our 14th century clothes and took some pictures.

I also got some sewing done:

 I finished my Hobbit outfit UFO

 got a lot done on an 1840’s outfit; a shift, bum pad, cap, collar and dress

 made some 1840’s baby clothes; a petticoat and a dress

 and a witches bonnet for Halloween – I don’t mind spending time in more than one fantasy world ;)

I’ve also hosted a sewing class with a friend (in the green silk dress), sponsored by the event Thomanders Jul i Lund: eight women with varying experience in historical sewing made 1840’s style shifts, stays, petticoats and dresses. It was an educational experience for me, who never taught a sewing class before. Some of the ladies (as well as little H and I) are in this picture. The styles of their dresses cover pretty much all of the 1840's - don’t they look wonderful? Unfortunately I don't have a picture with my friend/co-teacher Maja also in it, as she had a pet emergency that morning.

Picture (c) Lena Birgersson.

Not my most productive year, sewing wise, but not the least so either. Even when I wasn't sewing myself, I was kept busy being a co-moderator in the Historical Sew Fortnightly (HSF) Facebook group, and will continue being so next year, though of course, the challenges will be monthly now (HSM). Hopefully I'll be able to complete more challenges myself now :) 

For Christmas Tobias gave me this book that I’ve wanted for a few years. The title can roughly translate to “The Tailor, the Seamstress and the Fashion” and is all about how the making of women’s clothing in Sweden changed from being a men’s business to gradually becoming a women’s business. It also has diagrams of stitches, seams and patterns taken from period clothes.

This year have been very much 19th century for me, as I’ve felt a bit burned out on the 14th century – last year I sewed like mad to get ready for the season, and never got to attend a single event with my group, and that just made me sick of it all. Now though, I’m beginning to feel the pull again, so hopefully there will be more medieval things in the coming year.

Thank you for reading my blog this past year - I hope you are all well, and will have a Happy New Year!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

An 1840's Baby Dress

As little H have only just begun to taste solids, and is thus still dependant on me for food, he naturally had to come with me to the event at the Tegnér Museum I mentioned in my last post. Of course he needed to be properly dressed as well. I looked through my stash, and found some old cotton curtains I’d bought for the fabric a few years ago. It was all bleached on one side, but the other side was in good condition. The fabric is similar to what is used in this extant dress. The dress was hand sewn using linen and cotton thread.

The bodice is high necked – it is winter after all – and bound with a self fabric bias strip. It closes in the back with mother of pearl buttons from my stash. It’s lined in plain white cotton, and then eased into the waistband.

The skirt is tightly cartridge pleated to the waistband, and has numerous tucks – more than I had planned; the result from cutting the skirt too long. The tucks help a lot to prevent the skirts from clinging, they look pretty, and of course, can be let out if needed. 

When I came to the sleeves I was beginning to run out of fabric: I’d used some of it in my eldest boys patchwork quilt three years ago. I decided to make short sleeves cut on the bias – very 1840’s – and have longer ones under them.

The longer sleeves are pieced, with plain cotton sheeting where it won’t show under the shorter sleeves. They are only loosely sewn in, and can be removed in summer. They are pleated to cuffs, also closed with mother of pearl buttons. 

The dress was worn over the petticoat I’d made previously. A little shift should have been worn as well, but I didn’t have time to make one, and the medieval one I tried before turned out to be too bulky. It worked well anyway. He also wore tights, to keep warm and hide the very modern nappy. Little drawers would have looked nice, but lack of time…

I think H looked absolutely adorable in his little dress! Quite a few discussions on baby clothing in the past was the result of people assuming he was a girl. Several people recalled that they had pictures of their grandfathers in dresses when babies. And thus the boy in a dress issue was diffused.

The Challenge: #22 Menswear (Yes, I’m stretching this, as the dress could just as well have been worn by a girl.)

Fabric: Different cottons.

Pattern: Drafted my own from looking at pictures of extant baby and toddler dresses.

Year: Roughly 1840’s. 

Notions: Cotton and linen thread, mother of pearl buttons.

How historically accurate is it? As usual, as best as I could make it without looking at extant dresses in person. Period materials, constructions and stitching.

Hours to complete: Mmm… maybe 8-10?

First worn: For the pictures and a small event at the Tegnér Museum in Lund, Sweden, on the 29th November.

Total cost:  Nothing at this time, as fabrics and notions came from my stash.

Friday, 12 December 2014

1840's Maternity Dress

The first Saturday of Advent I had a little event to attend; my friend Maja and I was going to sit in the Tegnér Museum, as part of the larger event Thomanders Jul i Lund, a rather new Advent celebration in 19th century spirit. 

Picture (c) J. Wagner

Last year my friend and I were also involved, showing period sewing techniques, and we decided to go 1840’s, as Thomander (a professor at the university and later a bishop in the Church of Sweden) and his family were all alive and living in Lund at that time. Maja made a dress last year, but I had been asked to go as a farmer’s wife, so I wore my Insanely Pieced Dress for that. This year though, we were both going to be women of the bourgeois, so I needed a new dress. Poor me.  

Picture (c) J. Wagner.

As I knew I was going to loose baby weight during the time I made the dress, it felt like a waste of time and fabric to make one with a fashionably fitted bodice. Learned that the hard way... A maternity dress would be better, as those could be worn at home while breastfeeding. Luckily I have a pattern diagram taken from an 1853 maternity dress, so I used that as a guide. I only changed the sleeves to look more 1840’s, and put in drawstrings to make the dress more fitted when not pregnant. 

The drawstrings pulled tight. Picture (c) J. Wagner.

Having drawstrings to take up the width of the fan front bodice is something I saw in a picture of an 1860 original a friend - and museum curator - showed me. That isn’t a maternity dress, but I thought it plausible for my purpose, if nothing else.

The fabric was a duvet cover set from IKEA that I bought a year or so ago, as my first thought when I saw it was “mid 19th century dress!”. It was too expensive for me then, but a few months later I found it in the bargain corner for much less, as it had been used in the displays. Joy! I’ve seen it made up into both an 1830’s dress and an 1850’s one before. Both to not look too much like the others, and as I liked it better this way, I dyed it brown. It now looks somewhat similar to this dress:

Wool dress, 1845-50. V&A T.849-1974

The dress is cut like other dresses of the time in the back, but the front is cut in one from shoulder to hem. The bodice is flat lined in the back, but has a separate lining in front. This is tight fitting, and laces up – tolerably easily adjustable when pregnant. This bodice lining makes the back of the dress fit snugly, even when the fashion fabric may hang free and flowing in front. To make it fit nicer, the fashion fabric is attached to the lining halfway toward the front with a line of stitches, as in the original.

The separate front bodice lining, laced up. It's fitted and boned, as it was in the original 
1853 maternity dress. The drawstrings of the fashion fabric can also be seen, 
as can the petticoat, sitting low on the hips in a brave attempt to achieve the long waisted look of the 1840's.

The sleeves are also lined, and all but the side seams in the bodice are piped, as are the sleeves at the wrists. The skirt is cartridge pleated to the bodice. To give the pleats a bit more character, I inserted a strip of cotton sheeting in the fold before I pleated the skirt. This simple thing makes a lot of difference, as the pleats get a fuller look, instead of being flat.

The hem has a wide facing. I’ll have to shorten the skirt a bit; it’s a tad too long, and brushes the floor in a couple of places. It’s tricky balancing a skirt by yourself.

Picture (c) J. Wagner.

The collar is the one I crocheted a while back. I wore a bow pinned at the front of the neckline for the promo pics before the event (before the dress was finished), but as little H would just tear at it, I left it off for the event itself.  The collar was basted in, so even if he pulled that, it stayed put. The cap is also one I made earlier this year. 
Maja and I - I added another drawstring just below the bust later.
Picture by Lena Birgersson of Thomander's Jul i Lund.

The whole dress is hand sewn, using linen and cotton thread. I wore it over my 1840’s shift, my regency stays (they are not curvy enough over the hips, but otherwise acceptable for the Romantic era), my bum pad, quilted petticoat, a tucked petticoat, and a plain one. I had white wool blend knee stockings, and black ballet flats. All in all I think I looked rather sweet, in a motherly way, though I had a bad hair day.

Picture (c) J. Wagner.

The event was really nice. Maja was tatting, and I was taking care of little H, but as children in period clothing are usually quite the attraction I didn't really need to do anything else. The guide showed visitors around and talked about the house, and the poet and man of the church Tegnér who lived there between 1813 and 1826 - we wore fashions decidedly later than the furnishings of the house. We talked to the visitors about period clothing (stays being the most interesting), sewing, women's roles, children's lives and such. 

Picture by Torbjörn Engström, one of the visitors, who kindly sent it to me.

The Challenge: #21 Re-Do (#14 Paisley and Plaid)

Fabric: Different cottons.

Pattern: Drafted and draped my own, based on a diagram of a maternity dress from 1853.

Year: Second half of the 1840’s. 

Notions: Cotton and linen thread, cotton tape, cotton cords (made from cotton yarn), cotton string for the piping, velvet ribbon and zip ties.

How historically accurate is it? Tolerably. The only thing construction wise I’m not sure about are the drawstrings in front, but I think they are plausible. The fabric is… all right, but not a reproduction print. It hides spit up well – a good thing when you have a baby :)

Hours to complete: No idea; I could only work on it every now and then for a few months. Quite a lot though – if I used a solid fabric it would go a lot quicker, as the print is not as symmetrical as it looks…

First worn: For a small event at the Tegnér Museum on the 29th November.

Total cost:  The duvet cover set was 144 SEK ($19,17; £12,20; €15,38), and the velvet ribbon was about 30 SEK ($3,99; £2,54; € 3,20). I had the dye already, and I got it on sale a while back. Don’t remember how much it was though. The rest of the fabrics came from my stash, and would not cost much if bought in a charity shop.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

A Witches Bonnet

I finally got some pictures of my witches bonnet for the Historical Sew Fortnightly. Tobias comes home from school so late every weekday that it’s already dusk, so I haven’t had the opportunity until today. The whole family went for a little walk, and then we stopped for pictures in a nice place. I got the odd look from passers by, wearing a bonnet like this in a perfectly normal neighbourhood :)

The bonnet was originally an ordinary woman’s felt hat from the charity shop, nothing special at all. I got it years ago, and had already cut away a piece at the back, stitched the brim back up, with millinery wire inside the fold, and steamed and slightly reshaped the crown to give it a slightly quirky look. 

Now, the only thing I had to do was line the brim and trim the thing. Simple enough. I didn’t want the lining to differ too much in colour from the bonnet, and I was lucky enough to have an old, worn out blouse in my stash. It was brown, with a woven in pattern. I just cut a straight piece from it and stitched it to the inside of the brim, with the width taken up in pleats where brim and crown met. 

For the trim, I cut a curved piece of organza, left over from a previous project, twisted it slightly, wound it round the crown, and tied a bow. I twisted and interlaced an old necklace made from organza ribbon and glass beads round the fabric and pinned some feathers under it. Done! Simple but effective. Now I only need some proper witches robes…

What the item is: A witches bonnet.

The Challenge: #20 Alternative Universe.

The Alternative Universe: The wizarding world that creates the backdrop for the Harry Potter books.

Fabric: Wool felt hat, cotton, synthetic fibre organza. 

Pattern: None.

Year: Somewhere between 1830-2014: the wizarding world doesn’t really follow Muggle fashions. 

Notions: Organza ribbon, glass beads, feathers, cotton thread, pins.

How historically accurate is it? Not a jot. It’s loosely inspired by 1830’s bonnets though.  

Hours to complete: Remaking the hat and lining the brim took a few, but adding the trim only took minutes.

First worn: For our Halloween party last week.

Total cost:  Nothing at this time, everything was in my stash.