Thursday, November 4, 2010

Judith Griggs, beware.

Judith Griggs, beware. Oh, beware of copying others' work, claiming it was public domain because it was on the internet, then demanding payment because you chose to "correct" medieval spelling. You have no idea the can of worms you just opened up.

And this is where I first heard the story: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dress dreams

I've been gone a while. I know.


I've been making a new dress for my local Renaissance Faire.

By hand.

Yeah, I know, I know. Those of you who know me personally know I'm nuts already. Those who don't... well, now you know.

I've had requests to document the process of making my dress, and I put it off for the longest time, thinking “well my skirt's already partly done...” or “it's already mostly done” or “that takes time I don't have.”

I'm calling bs on myself. Sure, my skirt's already mostly done, but that doesn't mean I can't document what I have, and the process until it's done. Also, time I don't have? I'm definitely calling bs on myself – if I have time to play WoW every night, I have time to take a few minutes a week to update a dress diary.

Why am I doing my dress by hand? Because I can. And I'll let you in on a secret: parts of the dress will be done by machine.

I started off with a lovely blue linen, and an idea: a split-front kirtle. I had no idea what I was going to do, other than that. But, I knew I was going to make one – so I had to have a plan for my skirt.

I decided that, since my underskirt (which was already made, taken from last year's garb) is three panels, my overdress needs to be at least as full. Next time I make an underskirt, it will be less full. And, because I like to keep things relatively easy and like I've done in the past, I decided that two panels would be in back, and the front would be one panel split in half.

That was rather daunting. So, instead of jumping right into my skirt, I decided to add a guard to my underskirt, first. To make it coordinate with this year's dress.

What you see here is my underskirt – a rather pretty brown, though drab. I promise, it's not as beautifully rich chocolate brown as it appears in the picture. I have issues with lighting. All those little dots around the guard are pins. I stabbed myself a lot.

Underskirt done, I knew, this was it: I had to cut into my lovely blue linen and start my skirt for my kirtle. I took a deep breath and (remembering to make this year's skirt three inches longer than last year's... yeah, I'm kind of embarrassed to look at pictures from last year) cut the first two panels for my dress.

Have I mentioned I'm also using period seaming techniques? It's actually rather sturdy, though time-consuming. I learned what I could from Extreme Costuming, and I was off.

For those of you who don't know period seaming technique, let me enlighten you. First, you iron raw edges down, just like a hem. Double-fold them in, just like a hem. Then you sew it down with a straight(ish) running stitch. Sounds pretty simple – and it is. Do this on both pieces of fabric you need to seam together. Then put your two pieces together, right sides facing, and whip stitch the edges. You heard me. Whip stitch them. The picture you see is of my two pieces pinned together, waiting to be whipped. (*grin*) When they're whip stitched together, you can pull them “apart” and the seam will lay flat – it's very very sturdy. I'd trust a seam sewn like this to last more than I would trust a machine-sewn seam.

So, I sewed my skirt together. And cut the third panel out, cut IT down the middle (split front, dontchaknow), hemmed, seamed, etc. then it occurred to me: gathering the back just won't work. I have several yards of fabric in the back two panels; the bodice they're going to be gathered into is only a foot wide in the back. I had problems with this last year. Uh-oh. Solution: cartridge pleat it! But, this presents another problem: cartridge pleating will effectively shorten my skirt. And I don't want that. Sooooo I had no choice but to cut out a 4-inch strip the width of the back of my skirt, hem it, seam it on, etc. That's a week of my life I'll never get back. Want to see the result, sewn in?

Pretty ugly, huh? It's ending up on the bottom, with the visible seam just above the guard. (This picture is of the inside, but it shows you what a puzzle my skirt is turning into.)

So, skirt is FINALLY sewn together. Now I get to add my guard. I had no idea what to use! I'm broke, don't have any fabric that will work... ACK! This is where I have to say, I love my friends. One of my faire friends had the perfect solution: she needed her dogs watched for a day, I needed fabric which she had. Guess how I got paid for puppy-sitting. I ended up with a beautiful light peach/pink almost gauzy linen.

My guard is two inches wide, sewn right to the outer hem of my skirt. I'm so pleased at how it's turning out!

The only thing I'd forgotten to take into account is how MUCH skirt I have. I ended up needing 234 inches of guard – that's 234 inches of hand-sewn seam, twice (one for top and one for bottom). That's 468 inches of hand-sewn hemstitch. Ouch.

Anyhow, the end result is that two months later, four weeks from opening day, I have most of a skirt done. Want to see?

That's my skirt, draped over my couch. Notice it's a three-seat couch. Notice how folded over itself the skirt is. (Also, notice that only half of the guard is sewn down – guess what I'll be doing for a while during WoW breaks.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I feel pretty...

It's been a while since I've posted. Wow, February. So much for discipline! Oh well. What have I been up to? Oh, this and that: some embroidery here, some knitting there, a decent amount of reading - and lots and lots of cooking.

During my adventures in the land of My Kitchen (it's a scary place sometimes), I have determined that I Need An Apron. But what apron to get? Should I make one? Should I buy one? I've been wanting a Flirty Apron, but couldn't decide which one to get! Chic Pink? Sassy Black? Chic Teal? Too any choices! And then, two days ago - an epiphany. I was at the fabric store, only intending to get some needles and a thimble for my latest project, and saw the pattern for this:

I was in love! I bought the pattern, some fabric, MORE thread... and now, two days later I have my very own Emmeline Apron!

Reverse side:

As an added bonus, I have had my mind changed about something. For a while I have been wanting to make a regency dress (circa 1795), but have been convinced my tummy would make me appear pregnant. You may notice from my pictures that I'm not a tiny girl. But this apron has an empire waist and is still flattering. I think if I were to make a regency dress it would look nice...

Friday, February 5, 2010


I love tea. Hot tea in winter, cold tea in summer. I was recently gifted a perfect 2-cup teapot by a generous friend with an overabundance of them (teapots, that is – one can never have an overabundance of friends). Having used tea bags most of my life, my eyes were opened to loose-leaf teas a few years ago when a Teavana store opened in my local mall.

Walking in my first impression was, Oh, my goodness! It’s… a wall of tea! Black tea, oolong tea, white tea, herbal tea, teas whose names I can’t pronounce! They generously provide samples of four blends, both hot and cold, which change with the season, month, or sometimes the week. Having tried the four blends they had and admitting to my tea salesman that I knew very little about tea other than I liked herbal stuff, I liked caffeine, and I LOVED chai, I was persuaded to buy a 6-ounce blend of Maté Vana and Rooibos Chai. I got home. I boiled my water, carefully measured out my tea into a tea ball, and proceeded to make my chai. Oh, goodness me! It was heavenly! I was hooked on loose-leaf!

Over the few years since then I have also acquired some others: a blueberry tea and, most recently, a tin of English Breakfast (aka, plain black) tea.

How I came to be hooked on black tea (with a little bit of sugar and some milk!) is an entirely different story, involving multiple flights, several delays in strange cities, and a 12-hour train ride through Scotland. Suffice it to say, I am addicted to the elixir.

Now, none of this is an advertisement for Teavana – it just happens that they are my Local Tea Shop. I have not had the opportunity to try any others, although a new tea store has recently opened in the same mall as Teavana. Mayhap I will give it a try next time I go to buy tea.

The point is, tea is an elixir from God. All those jokes about the British drinking tea to solve their problems? I know now why they exist. Tea is relaxing, as mildly sweet or bitter as you want it, as milky or watery as you choose. It’s a lovely escape in every sip, reminding you (or at least, reminding me) to stop for a second and enjoy the little things, to pay attention to my senses. All of them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pretty for the home

Although I currently live with my mother (times being what they are...), at one point I did live on my own, in a little house I rented. And I plan to do so again, when the time is right. While stumbling around the internet, I found this:

It's a wall decal that's also a chalkboard! I am determined now that when I have a place of my own again, it will be on my wall! It's beautiful, elegant (faux-cameo border, anyone?), and just plain prettier than a whiteboard stuck via magnets to the fridge.

I found it via Tea Rose Home - which, by the way, I am now following!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sherry Thomas' 'Delicious'

I admit it, I have a weakness for reading romance. I'm not ashamed of my reading habits (and refuse to "defend" them, as if reading romance was something to be defended at all). One of my loves within the world of Romancelandia is historical romance.

I read all different time periods of historical romance. Regency, Victorian, medieval.. heck, I even have a small section of paranormal/historicals where one protagonist is from a different time period as the other. Without a doubt, though, one of my favorite single romance novels is Sherry Thomas' Delicious. So, taken from my (oft-neglected) book blog, here is my review of the book:

Verity Durant is a good cook - the best, second only (possibly) to Escoffier - with a secret. Her employer (and former lover) Bertie Somerset recently passed away, leaving her in the employ of his half-brother Stuart. What Stuart doesn't know is that his new cook is the same Cinderella he had a one-night love affair with ten years ago and has yearned for ever since.

Delicious is put forward as a Cinderella story of sorts. It starts out framed as a Cinderella story, and the author as well as the characters themselves reference the famous fairy tale throughout the novel. This not only works, but adds tremendously to the romance building between Stuart and Verity.

I loved the entire thing. Not only was I intrigued by the Victorian setting, I wanted to know if Cinderella got her prince, and what happened to the prince's fiancee. And what of Cinderella's stepmother? The prince's family? Delicious answers all of these questions, all the while drawing you into not only the romance between the characters, but into a new love affair with food - for that is how much of Verity's passion is shown: through her food.

Anyone looking to read a romance novel: I highly recommend this! It's delightful, satisfying, and all-around lovely. I know I gush, but I think, in this case, the work deserves the praise.
(4.5 stars out of 5)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Victorian... underpinnings

I can’t find a bra to fit me well. “WOAH,” you say, “that’s way too much information! What’s that got to do with neo-Victorianism?” First off, it’s just a bra. I’ll try not to get much more TMI than that. Second, what it’s got to do with neo-Victorianism is this: I’d rather wear a corset every day than go bra shopping and have to settle for a bra that either doesn’t fit me well or isn’t pretty. Or both.

A good corset both fits well and is pretty. A good corset is COMFORTABLE unless you do something wrong, or it’s wearing out. As someone who’s worn decent corsets for some time (granted, they’re Tudor corsets for 8-10 hours a day, for only 12 days of the year, but still), I can say this with some confidence. I made my own corsets, and with each new incarnation my corset fits me better and is more comfortable for longer periods of time – and that’s with a corset that’s trying to force my body into a shape it DOESN’T want to fit. (Tudor corsets are cone-shaped, whereas Victorian corsets are hourglass-shaped – and so is my body.)

The only thing with wanting to wear corsets instead of bras? They’re not popular anymore. This means I either have to make my own, or shell out a lot of money for custom-made corsets. On top of this, it also means I’d have to tailor ALL my clothes to fit the new silhouette a corset makes. Still, I’m considering it… perhaps when I have a little more money.

Introductory Musings..

Sitting tonight in front of the TV, with my stove-shaped fireplace filled with flames off to the side, I started thinking as I was knitting my tea cozy... While not exactly steampunk (although I do love that aesthetic), I'm a bit of a neo-Victorian. Love knitting, would rather wear shawls than sweaters, would rather sleep under layers of quilts than a duvet.

Hell, I like making my own bread BY HAND rather than eating store-bought - and not just for the lack of preservatives in the bread and of money spent.

And mind, while I love a lot of things about neo-Victorian living (especially the home-crafting parts), I am also INCREDIBLY grateful I was born in the latter parts of the 20th century and am living now in the 21st. I love my technology - TV, TiVo, electric lights, my blackberry, cars, the ability to boil water in under 5 minutes with my electric kettle, refrigeration.

I'm especially grateful for the liberation I have as a female... while we haven't caught up to males yet, we're SO much better off than our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Heck, I have it better than my mother at my age, who couldn't get an athletic scholarship to college because she was a GIRL, despite being captain of almost every sports team her school had *and* having the grades, too.
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