Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back breaking work...

Start with a little of this...

...add a whole lot of this...

...and what do you get?  Two raised garden beds, ready for seeds and a trip to the chiropractor.  Ouch!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Check out these beauties over at American-Duchess!  You don't want to miss the pre-sale deal she has going on....and for those of us that don't do early or mid 18th century, the future of her Regency shoes depend on the sale of these.  So, go!  Buy them up! (I'll live vicariously through you!)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Regency Stays: Revisited; Last time...I promise.

After ordering Steel Boning from, (which was, ironically, cheaper than the plastic boning that I originally bought from Joann's Fabric hoping to save some money) I am, at last, happy with the look and fit of my Stays.  No more buckling and creasing. The difference is like night and day, and they feel like a second skin. 

Before Front:

After Front:

Before Side:

After Side:

Before Back: (and here's where it makes a BIG difference)

After Back:

If I was pleased with my stays before, I am ecstatic now!  Steel boning is a miracle, and I will NEVER (repeat: NEVER) buy plastic boning again.  Lesson learned.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Musings on my mid-1790's Gown


I've talked much about wanting to make the quintessential white Regency gown for this year's Jane-Austen-Festival, and now that my stays are done, I've finally been able to start the process of turning that want into a reality.  Last Autumn, I purchased some white voile from Dharma Trading Company (I think that's where I purchased it...I've slept since then).  I'm using this for my gown, but before I cut into this heavenly-oh-so-soft-and-scrumptious fabric, I'm carefully planning everything out and testing out my plans using a cheap old white sheet, and draping my ideas over my dress form.
(1799 - love the scarf...the veil...not so much)

But let me take a step back...

...all perfect gowns start with a solid foundation.

My Stays are done...check (except for the scrunching problem in the back, which I am currently working on.)

I've re-done my old petticoat...check.  It now fits better, and looks better.  The only thing I have to worry about is getting it to stay up at such a high waistline.  I'm thinking of buttoning it to my stays (which is a period correct way of doing it)...or I might use straps (also period correct)...or I could just pin it to my stays (a third period correct method.)  Any one of these ways should work.

Another foundational object that I am told is necessary is something called a "bum roll"....umm...yes, I know it's a funny word...I laugh when I say it too.  Why anyone would WANT to make their bum bigger, I don't know, but such was the fashion at the time...and...well...when in Rome...  Originally, I made one that looked like the above picture... a sort of rectangle-ish one (I've seen others like it). 

But then my dear, wise and clever friend, Natalie, over at A-Frolic-Through-Time pointed out that something this big might show through the semi-sheer voile.  Good point, Natalie.  So, I made one smaller.  It's much nicer, don't you think.  The fabric at the back of the skirt should drape well over this one.
The only thing lacking in the undergarments department is a pair of clocked stockings, like the ones at Burnley&Trowbridge....but I'm trying not to spend any money on myself this year (why is this so stinkin' hard!), so they might have to wait.


Ok, so, foundational stuff out of the way now...back to the gown.  The first thing I did, was to grub up some inspiration.  I needed a Muse...or two...or three...  Fashion plates, paintings and extant garments are the way to go.  I was fortunate enough to find all three. 

(Tiden's Toj gown)

Let's talk extant garment.  THE ultimate white gown, that everyone interested in the Regency period seems to covet and wish to reproduce is the 1797, Dutch, Tiden's Toj, white wedding GOWN.  I know that Natalie is using this as inspiration for her gown, and Lauren at American-Duchess is making a gorgeous version of the dress.  It even comes with it's own PDF graphed pattern (which I can't read because it's in Dutch.)

I love the beautiful folds, gathers and pleats, and I'm confident that my voile will take this shape nicely.  I'm also in love with the v-neck (or slightly crossover) style, which suits my figure, and the high neckline is gorgeous.  Just take a look at the detailed pleating on the back bodice.  It's positively sculptural.

(Mrs. Unknown)

The paintings that caught my eye were two miniatures from the V&A.  First, was this one of an unknown lady from 1795.  I like her turban as well.

(Mrs. Skottowe)

The second was of Mrs. Skottowe from 1800.  Both of these ladies are wearing a v-neck, gathered white gowns with fairly high back necklines.


The final inspiration comes from fashion plates.  I found two sites that make me giddy.  The first is the Bibliotheque-des-arts-decoratifs which, obviously is in French (which I don't speak, and If I were stranded in a French speaking country, could maybe be able to read enough to get me to a bathroom, or let someone know I am thirsty or hungry.)  Anyhow, it's a tricky site to navigate, but has some amazing fashion plates within it.

The second site, is much easier to use, but it doesn't have quite as many fashion plates.  That being said, the ones it does have are outstanding.  It's called Dames-a-la-mode, it's written in English, and this is where most of the fashion plates you are seeing now come from. 

(My scribblings...I apologize for the dark blurriness of the image...bad lighting, and I'm a bit too lazy to retake the picture...sorry.)

I also found a bit of inspiration in the book, "Costume in Detail" by Nancy Bradfield.  On page 81 of this book is a beautiful illustration of a gown from the Snowshill Collection. I love the layout of this book, with all of it's sketches and scribbled thoughts.  This is exactly how I lay out my ideas.

Once my Muse was captured, I set about creating my pattern, and draping.  Most of what I've been playing with was drafted, with some of it adapted from old Sense and Sensibility patterns and muslins of other gowns I've made.  Once you've made a certain style of clothing, there are an infinite number of ways to manipulate that basic design.  It isn't any different with historical costuming.

I used the back bodice design...

...and the front flaps idea, of the Snowshill gown as my lining.  I need to take off a couple of inches from the bottom of the front bodice lining, and raise the top edge a couple of inches as well.

Like I said before, I am using an old sheet for my muslin.  It is quite a bit heavier than the voile, so the tucks and pleats will probably have to be done a little finer.  I will also be tacking down the outer bodice to the lining in many places.  Here's what I have so far for the front...

...and this is what's done on the back.  It looks a little Frankenstein-ish at this point, and obviously, I have some tweaking to do still.  You might even be able to see my handwriting on the fabric.  This was my second muslin, and there might be a third.  I haven't even started on the skirt part of the gown yet.  I'm leaning toward a drop front skirt, that ties at the side seams.

Actually, I played around with the voile too (without cutting), and I'm thrilled with the look!  I'm giddy, really!  You can see the comparison above.  The sheet is on the left, and the voile is on the right.
 I can't wait to finalize the muslin, and fit it to myself so that I can start working with the voile.  But first, I have to work out all of the construction issues...I'm planning on sewing the gown by hand!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Regency Stays: Update #2, Final Update

30+ hand sewn (and badly done) eyelets later, and I've at long last finished my Regency Stays.

Except for the large wooden busk, running the length of my torso in the front, that prevents me from bending in the middle, they aren't uncomfortable.

I'm having a little bit of a lacing issue, and am talking to experienced seamstresses about this folding over, or creased issue that you see in the above picture.  I'm not sure if it is because the plastic boning I used isn't strong enough, or if it is the fact that my husband was the one that laced's not like he does this for a living.

I'm always a little hesitant to show pictures of myself in my 'undergarments', but then I remind myself that I am more fully clothed in this underwear than most modern people are in their normal summer outfits. (and have you seen what they wear at the pool/beach?)  This thought comforts me.... :-)

Anyway, I am now ready to re-do a petticoat that I made (badly) last year.  The plans for my white gown are in the works, and I will post more on that later.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A New Jane Eyre

I recently came across a trailer for a new Jane Eyre film that came out in select theaters on the 11th of this month.  I do hope that it comes near me(but highly doubt it due to it being a British film).  If it doesn't, then maybe I'll be able to find it on the web somewhere.  I'm not a HUGE Bronte fan, but this trailer does make the film attractive to me.

You can check out more info on the film and watch the intriguing trailer HERE.

(Photos found on Bing and Film-o-Filia)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Swing Dress: Final Update

It's over.  The Swing Dress Sew Along at Casey's Elegant-Musings has finally come to an end. 

Even though I made a mock-up, I did have one issue with the fit of this dress.  The skirt was extremely least on my short (and slightly stocky) frame, the original mock-up skirt came down almost to my ankles.  I chopped three inches off of the mock up, which was made of cheap, heavy cotton, and it looked ok, hitting right at my knees.  I guess I should have taken into account the drape of the different types of fabrics, because once made up in the rayon, it sagged a good two to three inches below my knees.  How did this happen????  As you can see in this picture, the skirt part of the dress nearly swallows up my legs.  I plan on definitely going back and taking up the hem.  Sheesh....I really do not like re-doing things.

In the end, though, I am happy with the fabric choice, and I really like the fit of the top half of the dress.  It's a comfortable dress, and it could be worn daily and casually.   Right now, I will pair it with a sweater and heels, or boots.  In the summer, it will be a cool choice and look lovely with flats or sandals.  The pattern would also be sweet made up in an interlined, semi-sheer black voile.  This would dress it up quite a bit, and be a cute option for weddings or semi-formal events (not that I go to a lot of them, but one can always hope.)  If you are interested in making your own Swing Dress, check out the pattern at Sense-and-Sensibility. honor of the finished Swing Dress, I'm posting some pictures of my Grandma Louise from the 30's, 40's and 50's. 


(My grandpa was pretty handsome too, if I must say.)

She's lovely, isn't she!  She's gone through so much in her life time, and she's such a strong, beautiful woman.  She's an inspiration to me.  (I love you, Mammaw!)

Here's a slide show birthday tribute that my family made for her a few years ago.  I wanted to just show a few of the pictures as stills, but couldn't figure out how to do that.  So, enjoy the whole slide show instead.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Well, I'm finally feeling somewhat recovered from the musical.  I took Monday off of work (to relax), and was able to start working on my future garden (yes, garden work is relaxing to me.)  I ordered many seeds from the Urban-Farmer site that I posted about earlier, as well as a few tomato cages and a couple of seed starting trays like the one above.  They contain these flat, hard disks, that you soak in water for about 10 minutes so that they can expand.  Once expanded, for some odd reason they reminded me of little cocoons. (Which I guess is essentially what they are since they are of fostering new life.)

These are the little seed packets that came in from Urban-Farmer.  I love the way they are made out of recycled magazine pages.  The seeds pictured here, I planted in the containers above.  They all needed to be started indoors.

These are some flower seeds that also needed to be started indoors.  I purchased these seeds from Seed-Savers Exchange, a non-profit organization made of people who save and pass on heirloom seeds. 

As I sat on my covered deck, under an overcast, but fresh, cool day, I was fascinated by the different types of seeds.  Some were barely visible, like these Greek Oregano seeds.  I wasn't always sure if they even made it into the little cocoons.

Here's a dark, cycle shaped type...chives, to be exact.  What I would like to know, though, is when did my hands start to look like my grandma's? (This is what happens, kids, when you spend your life ruffing around in soil, playing with chalk, paint, ink, oil pastels, and a myriad of other art materials, and handling fabric in your spare time!  Don't do what I do if you want nice soft, wrinkle-free hands!)

Pepper seeds look just like what you would expect....of course.

These tiny little things are from a flower called "Love-Lies-Bleeding."  Such a powerfully dramatic name for such a small seed.  They were also the first seeds to sprout in the container. (you will see them below)  Don't judge a book by it's cover, I always say!

Compare these monsters to the seeds above! (They kind of gross me out, if I am honest, because they remind me of bloated ticks.) They are from the Gibsonii Castor Bean, and they nearly didn't fit in the cocoon.

These seeds were burr-like.  They made me think of the many times growing up, when my brother and I went wandering through our parent's woods, and came home with muddy boots and tiny burrs stuck to our clothing.

I ordered garlic bulbs, and I REALLY need to get them in the ground RIGHT NOW!  After receiving them in the mail, I kind of wondered if I couldn't have just used the garlic I buy in the grocery store...they look identical...anyone know the answer to this?  I had to rescue these from my cat.  She decided that they made a good snack, and started chewing on the package.

These are the last of the seeds that I ordered.  They aren't meant to be started indoors.  So, in April, after the last fear of frost, they will be sewn directly into the garden.

This is a packet of concentrated sea-weed.  Apparently, sea-weed is a fabulous fertilizer for plants.  This one, wonderfully named "Sea Magic" (don't you just love the mermaid!!!) This little 1oz. package gets dissolved into 1 gallon of water...this is your concentrate.  Then, you use only 3tsps of the concentrate for every quart of water...watering with it only every two weeks.  It should last all spring and summer. (Again, don't judge a book by it's cover...a little goes a long way, right!)

Fast forward to today...six days of incubating in a warm, dark place...and the first of the seeds are beginning to sprout. (The ones above are the "Love-Lies-Bleeding" seedlings.  Beautiful, aren't they!)  Time to hang up the shop lights and let them grow.  In two or three weeks, they will be ready to transplant into the garden.  Here's to hoping there aren't any frosts in April! (And here's to hoping my cat doesn't find the seedlings and chew on those too!)