Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

(image courtesy of joubonjatra.com)
Study of the Madonna and Child with a Cat
c. 1478
Pen and ink on paper, 281 x 199 mm
British Museum, London


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Jane Austen's portrait, by her sister Cassandra Austen, watercolor and pencil (c.1810.)

 Jane Austen, b. December 16th, 1775, d. July 18th, 1817.  An English novelist (and my daughter's namesake) whose major works of fiction are Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.

Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Of snowy days and other things...


Today, is a "snow day"...which means schools are canceled... which means I get to stay home and play.  We have about 3 inches of snow (which, I'm sure doesn't seem like a lot to those of you who live a little further north than me, but...) In 3 inches of snow...where I live...that means roads are nearly impassible, and certainly people don't know how to drive on them!  So, I thought I would take this rare opportunity for play time, and catch you up on what's been going on around my neck-of-the-woods.

We've enjoyed playing in the snow.  Daddy helped Jane build a snow man.

Jane found the snow man's eyes, nose, mouth and scarf (one of Momma's scarves, of course.)

And Momma tought Jane how to make a Snow Angel.

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In other news, Jane had her first Christmas program at school.  It was the cutest stinkin' thing I've seen in a long time.  I got the singing on video, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how to upload it to blogger.  My husband tells me that I have to wait until the DVD is full before we can "finalize" the videos and upload them to anything.  Boooo....where's the fun in that!?

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News on the sewing-front:

My very lovely, and generous, Theater Club students rewarded me recently for directing their play by giving me a gift card to a local book store.  AND, well....I've had my eye on a certain sewing pattern book for a very long time...so, of course, I ran straight to the store and snatched it up.  It's a modern garment sort of book, which is unusual for me, I know (my "modern" wardrobe is in desperate need of updating)...but I love the styles of the designer, Wenlan Chia. 

Her designs are simple and slightly structured, or sculptural, but very feminine as well.  The fabrics she recommends are luxurious, soft and natural....and I like the neutral color pallet.  Some of her desings have hints of vintage or antique elements in them.  Almost everything I've seen in her line, is actually "wearable" by the general public...not just made for the runway.

All that being said, the book has a cd full of Adobe uploadable and printable patterns, and the book itself has lovely illustrations and clear directions for sewing up the garments.  It's available on Amazon, of course.

  This is the first garment I have tried in the book.  It calls for silk-velvet, and silk chiffon.  I had neither, and didn't want to spend any money on the shirt, so I used what I had in my stash.  I don't think I went too far from the mark though. 


 I used cotton velvet and silk. 

The silk I used didn't drape the same as the chiffon, but I still like the look.  I did have to hand sew most of the neck-line, which took a lot longer than I thought it would...silk is a slippery little beast!

It's a very comfortable garment...almost tunic-like. 

This garment is next on my list...I have some linen stashed away that will be perfect for this top.

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Last but not least, an update on the Regency Stays and on the long ago thought of "Marianne" Pelisse. 

I have my stays completely cut out for all three layers.  I've decided I am NOT going to hand sew the entire thing...I just don't have the mental energy or the time to do that, and besides...seriously now...who's going to see it to know, right?  I am going to hand stitch the gussets and the eyelets.  I'm just working myself up to that since there are eight gussets per layer, times three layers...twenty four gussets!...yikes!...and probably just as many, if not more, eyelets.

As for the Pelisse...well...um...I know I haven't posted photos of the finished product.  Just call me a slacker.  But with the holiday season, it's been tough finding time to get all dolled up to do the deed.  Also, even though it is finished, I'm not completely satisfied with it.  I feel that the sleeves are too short, and that the collar is "messy" looking.  I hate to show stuff I've made that doesn't look like the way I envisioned it.  I really do think I need to add cuffs to lengthen the sleeves, and I desperately need to re-work the collar.  At this point though, I'm just burnt out on the whole thing, and a little bummed over the way it turned out.  So, for now, it is hanging in the back of my closet.  When I get over the mental stump that is keeping me from working on it, I will pull it back out and fix the problems.  No need to torture myself, right?

This might be my last post before the new year.  It's a busy Season, and we will soon be taking a familly trip to California to visit my in-laws.  In case I don't get the chance to say it again....

Mosaic from the PARISH OF BISHOPSTROW AND BOREHAM, England

Merry Christmas! 
May God bless you all!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cats Playing Patty-cake, what they were saying...


My friend, Laura posted this on her Facebook page....and I laughed so hard watching this, that I couldn't help but to share the laugh with you.  Of course...I supposed you might have to be a cat person to get the humor in this...but then again, if you've EVER seen a cat in your life, then you know that this is EXACTLY how cats are.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Regency Stays


I'm in the beginning stages of making my first full length Regency Era Stays (also known as a corset in today's terms.)  I've made the Sense and Sensibility Short Stays before, and they are more of a transition piece.  But the ones I am attempting to make now, are full length...meaning bust to hip.  I'm using the Period Costume's for Stage and Screen book, as my guide.  There is a grafted pattern in the Regency section that I enlarged to fit my specific size. 

Regency era stays are not at all like what most people envision corsets to be.  Most people think of the Victorian silhouette, like this 1890's corset above from the Corsets and Crinoline site. The look I am achieving is must softer and more natural a shape...giving only a general lift and separation to the bust.  If fit and made right, it is not at all painful to wear.

It will look something like this one from Mantua Maker patterns when I am done.

I started by drafting the corset pattern pieces onto Swedish Tracing Paper.  Then, I traced my pattern onto some cheap white cotton I had laying around.  This will be used only for my muslin mock-up, which is super important for fitting my stays.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than bad fitting stays or corsets.

I basted together my fabric, and added temporary boning and lacing, as well as a busk...made from an old paint stick...for fitting purposes.  Next, I tried on my mock-up....and with the help of my friend Natalie and the trusted experts from the Sense and Sensibility forum, my stays are fit to my body, and I am now ready to pick everything apart, use my mock-up for my pattern, and re-cut everything out of the fabric I will be permanently using for my stays.  I plan on using cotton and linen.  As the stays progress, I will keep you updated.

Sweet Success

Last night I baked up a batch of gingerbread cookies from THIS recipe.  They were quite tasty, and I'm a huge fan of gingerbread as a Holiday treat in general.  But, what I think makes gingerbread cookies so special is how you decorate them, and the time spent with friends and family doing the deed.

(Noah, stuffing as many marshmallows into his mouth as quick as he can before the decorating even begins!  Who can blame him!)

This morning, Natalie, from Zip-Zip's-Vintage-Sewing came over with her two little boys, Noah and Christopher for a cookie decorating play date.  We made royal icing from good 'ole Alton Brown's recipe. Then, we set out an assortment of sprinkles, chocolate candies, and marshmallows, gave each child (ummm...including ourselves!) a cookie, and let the decorating fun begin!

Jane's first cookie.

Christopher's first cookie.

Noah's first cookie.

Even my cat, Zimu wanted desperately to join in on the fun.  She looked longingly at the sprinkles.

Here we all are, up to our elbows in cookies and sweets.

To tell you the truth....I think there were more toppings eaten during the process then there were placed on the cookies...but, don't tell anyone.

Something interesting though...at least to me and Natalie...was how different each person's cookies turned out.  It was almost as if we each had our own intrinsic philosophy on cookie decorating.

Noah shows off his finished cookies....with a little on his face, of course, to prove that they are indeed his.

Noah's philosophy of cookie decorating seemed to be "pile on as many embellishments as possible...especially marshmallows."

Christopher gingerly presents his creations.

Christopher's philosophy had more to do with color scheme, and abstraction...maybe taking after Picasso a little bit...

Jane is proud of her work.

Jane went for a slightly more realistic approach...and strove to make each cookie an individual.

These are some of my creations....

These are some of Natalie's work....

I get the feeling that the inhibitions of childhood made for better, more spontaneously creative cookies!