Sunday, December 27, 2009

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Christmas Bait

Hooray for The Holidays! The Dreamstress posted about her lovely Christmas Bait (closely related to Pogey Bait), so I thought I'd post about mine as well. Amongst the cuddly flannel PJs, fluffy bathrobe, and fuzzy sox, I received for Christmas some fantastically 'Duchesque' items:

The Teacup
Another teacup, yes, but can a girl ever have too many? This teacup and saucer bears the mark "Crownford, Fine Bone China, Made in England." And to a girl like me, that's pure pogey gold. So far it's been a bit difficult to find much about Crownford, except that it hails from Staffordshire (yes, Mr. C, you are correct), and that there's quite a lot of it for sale across the webiverse, however, the company is no longer in existence - I believe it was acquired. Anybody know any better resources for identifying china?

The Bracelet
This bracelet was a gift from my grandmother-on-my-dad's-side, who has been a collector of funky things her entire life. Before there were hippies, she was a beatnik, and before there were beatniks, she was a bohemian. There's no telling where she got this bracelet (having lived in Berkeley much of her life), but we do know that is came from Indochina (it's stamped). Age? Not a clue, but it's really flippin' cool!!

The Book
There are some bound items that make my head spin - books on costume and books on art, specifically a handful of artists that make me salivate and shudder with glee. Primarily, I speak of Alphonse Mucha, who defines like none other the Art Nouveau movement at the turn of the 20th century. Mr. C must've seen me twitching when I saw this book at Barnes and Nobles :-) It's got a lot of Mucha's art and sketches that I haven't seen, and I must say that as a costumer as well as a rabid art historian, Mucha's gown and jewelry designs are incredible and inspiring. Thanks Mr. C! xoxo

And now off to the Nevada Museum of Art to drool over Rembrandt etchings and enjoy fine museum cuisine :-).
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

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Early Christmas Gifts, Ubersexlich, All Manner of Update...

It's been a crazy mid-month, and here's hoping things calm down. Lots of happenings and announcements and other zaniness ahead...

First Up - Pogey Bait! Nicole, herself a fantastic seamstress and wonderful friend, got me an AMAZERING little teacup and saucer for Christmas, from Anthropologie. It's *divine!* So, so lovely, and I am drinking tea out of it right now. Thanks Nicole! This event of joy happened while visiting Cuthbert's Tea House at Dickens Fair in San Francisco, where I spent my weekend. Cuthbert's also sells sweet little tea accoutrements, and I found a delightful, classic, white porcelain teapot for a lovely little price (you see it in the picture behind the cup and saucer). There is something about white porcelain teapots, unadorned, and well-balanced, that I simply love...so, a Christmas gift to myself, shhhhh!

Trim options for the suit - silver braid combos on
navy blue velveteen. On picture is with flash, one without.

Next- James' Ubersexlich 18th c. men's suit. I promise to inundate you with updates in the next month or so, but I just have to say that toiles and fittings are really not that interesting in the blog-iverse...that, and this particular fitting happened to take place in the men's room at Gaskells Victorian Ball. There were men. They were in their underwear. This is the reason for having no pictures. At any rate, the fitting went very well, with minor changes to the waistband, tightening up the legs, and making some aesthetic decisions concerning the back of the waistcoat. I can't wait to get started on the final version, and it better be quick - James wants the ensemble by early February (*ouch!*).

Want the pattern for this 1790s jacket?

More - an announcement. I'm going to work up a couple patterns for sale and place them on Etsy. No timeline as of yet, and I'll need to perfect them, but I'm thinking of the 1790s striped jacket, possibly the 1840s ballgown bodice, maybe some headgear (like a coif + embroidery pattern). I'll have to dig through my patterns...

And Finally - I spent the weekend in The Bay, at Dickens Fair and at Gaskells. Here's evidence of the latter - are you sick of this dress yet?
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Apocalyptic Costuming and Life


Sometimes things just don't work out. Sometimes NOTHING works out. This makes me very grumpy.

Dickens Day Dress? No.
New Car? No.
Sick dog? Yes.
Men's Breeches Toile for James' 18th c. suit? NO.

Ladies, let me forewarn you about JP Ryan's breeches pattern. She does some forewarning herself, right there on the pattern in fact, but stupid seamsters like me disregard that and go full-steam-ahead in confidence. In this particular case, though, I have nothing good to say. The pattern is very difficult to understand, and does not seem to follow any kind of logical construction or method. The directions are confusing, the little pictures quite cryptic, and you're just not sure if you've done it right or not until you've got the thing on a body. In this case it was my own body. Now, you can imagine that my 26-year-old girl-body is not at all like my gentleman client's man-body, yet the breeches fit me rather tightly through the legs (too tightly for James, I think), and the rear end, which I knew was going to be baggy, was more like an adult diaper. It was phenomenally, ridiculously baggy! I do understand the purpose of the diaper-butt, but with our modern sensibilities, despite all our desires to be historically accurate, I could not with any kind of confidence present a diaper-butted pair of too-tight breeches to my client and hope he went for them!

Despair set in, then panic, then a plan. Simplicity happens to make a fairly decent 18th c. men's ensemble pattern - the Pirates of the Caribbean pattern - that has a rather nice pair of drop-front breeches included. These are what I'm going for, with some alterations to the cuffs, for instance, to make them more "Versailles," less "PIRATE." The toile should be fairly straight-forward to put together, it being Simplicity, and then puppies will be happy again and all will be well. Let's hope.

As for the rest of it...the car, particularly. Well, sometimes things just don't work out and one realizes it would be best to wait. It's best to wait, in this case. I'm sad, but it's the practical thing to do. I have an evil empire to build...then I can get my Bat-Mobile.
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

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The Great 1840s Combustion...

...on Hold.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very sorry to announce that the 1840s day dress for this year's Dickens Christmas Fair...is on hold until next year.

Why, you whimper? On account of this...

And this (emotion included)...

And a million other things, including James' :ubersexlich 18th c. men's suit toiles, a couple top-secret Dickens-related art projects, and, oh one other thing...CHRISTMAS.

Sad, but true. This dress, this 1840s plaid bonanza, does want to be made, and would have been, if not for the flurry of other wonderful things that have fallen upon me like this winter's early, fatty, freezing snowfalls. And so, my dear readers, I am sorry to disappoint...I have failed...but...I'm getting a damn sexy car!!!!
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmastime!

The Lady of Portland House made me smile with this little Q&A (I refuse to call it a meme, I don't even know what that is really!), so I've done it for myself. So while I furiously sew on my 1840s Dickens Fair Wear, and snap photos for soon-to-be updates, read this...

1. Eggnog
or hot chocolate? ZOMG, BOTH. Even mix them together. I'm an addict of both

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? sometimes he wraps them, but most of the time he sets them under the tree in appealing ways.

3. Colored lights on the tree/house or white? white lights. someday, when I'm feeling retro-vintagey, I might do coloured lights, but there's something so classic and appealing about white lights and white snow. I'm always going more for classic than kitsch.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? naw. If it's there, though, I'm aware of it...and depending on who else is there, I'll either avoid the doorway like the plague or plant myself under it for the duration, hahaha.

5. When do you put your Christmas decorations up? it never happens right after Thanksgiving...I guess sometime around December 10th to the 15th ish? This year I'm getting my very first my-own Christmas tree, and that is happening on the 15th.

6. Favorite holiday dish? sausages wrapped in puff pastry. We eat them for breakfast on Christmas morning, with delicious gourmet mustard. Oh geez, what am I going to do this year without sausage rolls!? /ring ring...Mom, I need that recipe...

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? this is tough. Hrm, I think it's running around outside, with my brother, trying to make ourselves "tired" so we could go to sleep earlier. Never worked. Not once. As an adult, it's sitting in the living room just looking at the tree, with classical christmas music drifting off in the background.

8. When did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember. Maybe it's the year (whenever this was) that my mother proclaimed we weren't doing stockings. What do you mean WE? Doesn't SANTA do the stockings? and won't he be kindof jolly-pissed that we didn't hang them up? ...waaaaaait a second....

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No. Some of my friends did this when I was a kid, and we tried like crazy to convince our parents that this was a viable Christmas holiday tradition, but it never took. Must wait until The Morning.

10. How do you decorate a tree? Every year since being born, my brother and I have received ornaments - he gets soldiers, and I get angels - to hang on the tree for that year. So far he's got, what, at least 30 of them, and I've got over 26 (sometimes I'll get two per year, one from mom, one from grandmama). So the family tree always looks the same - angels, soldiers, white lights, filler globes/balls. The idea with the angels is that when I get married, and have a tree of my own, I will receive all the angels and have ornaments to put on the tree. This, understandably, will leave my parent's tree very bald, so some years ago I started getting ornaments for my mother - usually really classic, traditional glass ones.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? LOVE it. Hate rain. LOVE snow.

12. Can you ice skate? Yep. When I was little I took ice skating lessons for my childhood dream of being Kristie Yamaguchi. That dream didn't last long, and I stopped skating, but I can still get around backwards and forwards.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Hrm...does a "most useful, still use it" gift count? I don't want to say - it was brown, black, and goes BOOM.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays to you? That warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you've done something lovely for someone else. I'm not religious, so I've never gone to church on Christmas - not that I don't know the stories and appreciate them.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Pumpkin pie, duh.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? I'm not sure we have or had traditions. It's pretty basic - decorate tree, shop like mad, wrap like crazy, open, eat, sleep. Hrm...

17. What tops your tree? That's a mystery I'm going to have to solve this year...

18. Which do you prefer-Giving or Receiving? Giving of course!

19. Favorite Christmas song? Carol of the Bells, and Masters in the Hall (by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir), and Bing's White Christmas

20. Candy Canes-Yuck or Yum? eh. not a huge fan.

21. Favorite Christmas show? We watch "Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation" EVERY year. Sometimes we watch "The Santa Clause" too.

22. Saddest Christmas song? "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Judy Garland.


Copy and paste it to your blog, then leave me a comment so I can go and read yours!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

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The Great 1840s Madness, and Some 18th c. Toile-ing

It feels fantastic to be sewing again, and to be sewing on a tight deadline. I believe in the power of tight deadlines to keep us excited about a project, make us (or at least me) do some of our best work, and to benefit from the full effect of finishing something and getting to wear it with pride immediately. I find that if a project is finished and sits on the dress form for too long, it gets stale, and my mind goes off to other things before I've had a chance to wear my *new* creation.

All that being said, it's been a flurry of stitching excitement over here. I've cut James' :ubersexlich patterns and have done toiles for two of the three pieces - the waistcoat and the frock coat. In the world of blogging, this is really not that exciting - we want to see colors and trims and pretty stitching! - but I'm VERY pleased with how the suit is coming along! It's impossible to tell anything about it on my boob-tastic dress form. James is obviously not shaped this way. I'm looking forward to the fitting in about a week, though I have a couple other things to do before then - one is finding silver trim-of-win, the other is toile-ing the breeches, which will take quite a bit more time than both the frock coat and the waistcoat.

I'm happy to say, however, that everything is coming off quickly and in good measure. I leapt into the 1840s day bodice, and am pleased to report a garment that FITS, despite its "organic" creation. Instead of doing a gathered front, I went with pleats - the gathered front looked wonky and would have required quite a lot of hand-tacking to keep everything in place for what would essentially be a frumptastic bodice. The pleats worked really well to "take up the slack," and now I get to do fun things with buttons, yay!

I dug out these taffetta covered buttons from The Stash, but I think they are a bit oversized. What say you, o' women of the web? I have 14 uncovered "wedding sized" buttons that I think will work much better, and I plan to carry them up the center front and on the sides, but not past the bust. We'll see how that looks...
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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The Great 1840s Digression


Today I went to the fabric store for one thing and one thing only: muslin, primarily for the purpose of mocking up James' 18th c. men's suit (more on this later).

What I came away with: 10 yards of muslin, yes, but also... 7.5 yards of "homespun" cream-green-brown plaid, 7 yards of brown velvet ribbon, two packets of self-cover buttons, two packets of brown piping, and a spool of brown thread.

I had reconciled myself to not making a new dress for The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, this year, and to wearing the same old one I've been donning for 5-or-so seasons. Sometimes, however, fabric yells at your from the bolt, screaming, "Lauren, BUY ME, I want to be a dress! I don't care if you have only two weeks and a whole mess of other sewing to do by then, you WILL buy me, and you WILL make me into a new dress!" When this voice beckons, there is no arguing.

So...what I've started with is this out-of-print pattern from Simplicity (4551), which looks lovely on the outside but is a Hot Damn Mess once you cut into it. I knew I didn't want to use it as-is, so I used the existing pieces as a base and began slicing and dicing from there. After two muslins and a serious extension to my actual waist, I've got a nicely working pattern that is more like these dresses:

I like the gathered front bodices of the 1840s and early 50s. I'm not entirely sure how they close, but I imagine either edge-to-edge in the front, or with a hidden placket of some kind. I toyed with the idea of buttons, but none of my reference dresses show buttons as a center front closure.

So the final dress will be something like the incredibly rough doodle at the top.

I plan to use the brown piping as contrast on the bodice edge, as well as the little winglets at the shoulders. The velvet trim may go on the winglets as well, if I have any left after trimming the skirt.

I had wanted to do a tiered skirt, but there was not nearly enough fabric on the bolt, nor dollars in my budget. Instead, it will have to be a single-layered skirt, probably 5 yards worth, knife-pleated into a waistband. And speaking of budget, having to come in under $75, so far my tally is at $41.71

And finally, do I have time to whip together an evening bodice? I'm not sure it's appropriate fabric for evening, but I'd like to transition from the day at Dickens to the evening at Gaskells easily, without having to take an entire other gown. We shall see...perhaps I have enough to do with pulling a brown tafetta bonnet out of thin air and somehow conjuring a shawl...
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

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The Importance of Sewing Space

I've been so bad at updating, and this is because my brain has been a frazzled mess of goo due to the lack of organization and functionality of my sewing space. That is, there WAS no sewing space, just piles of clothes, fabrics, random pieces of wood, pattern pieces strewn about, a plethora of homeless hats.

Sewing space is important, not only for working, but for peace of mind and maximizing your workflow. Okay, that sounded awfully corporate, but consider - when you've got your space set up the way you like, with an ironing board on one side, your cutting table on the other, your well-oiled-and-beloved machine at front, things just go so much more smoothly.

Not perfect, but it's a start.
I'm desperately in need of shelving, hooks,
and a different table for my machine

So today I organized, cleaned, put things away, and rearranged as much as I could, to get a place to at least set up my sewing machine, and start on James' Ubersexlich 18th c. suit. I've got my JP Ryan patterns all ready to be cut out and mocked up, and a nice space on the floor to lay it all out.
And, as seems to be a reoccurring theme here on American Duchess...my breakfast, complete with honeybear:

Chai in the pot, and panattone
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