Thursday, February 21, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Annual 2019 Sewing Slump - My Tips for Self-Care in Sewing

The Letter, Pietro Longhi, 1746

It's that time of year! It seems right about this time, on an annual basis, I go into a dreadful sewing slump. I'm not motivated to even peek into my [utter disaster of a] sewing room, let alone drape or cut or stitch on anything. Even the simplest projects are gargantuan and better left untouched for more motivated days.

Do you ever feel this way?

Usually this slump bothers me, but this year I'm trying to give myself a break. We're moving house in just a couple weeks and I don't want to start anything new only to pack it all in and then feel stressed for not working on it while everything is in upheaval.

This leads me to think about self-care when it comes to sewing....or giving yourself permission to NOT do what usually brings peace, creativity, release, or relaxation.

The Seamstress, Jean-Francois Millet, 1853
It may seem crazy to feel stress around something that normally lowers the stress level, but in creative pursuits, especially when tied to social media in some way, it can feel like you're falling behind or "not performing" when you stop to take a breather.

The catch-22 is that you need to rest to be creative, even when creativity gives you a rest. The most important thing is to avoid performance pressure when creating. I believe all artists, no matter the medium, go through this. Have you ever heard that little voice in your head that says your work isn't good enough, that you've done that technique wrong, and you're a failure? It's crippling!

Let's all collectively give ourselves permission to leave the thread spools where they've fallen and close the door on it all for a little while.

Sewing Apprentic, Anne Claude Phillipe de Tubieres, 1737

It may also help to try something new and totally different for a short time too. What is stimulating and exciting your creative brain right now? For me (and I know at least two other historical costumers like this too), I love zippy cars, racing, and going to car meets. It's totally and completely removed from historical costuming, and it's a great way to take a break and recharge. Perhaps you're into horseback riding, surfing, hiking and camping, travel, aerospace engineering, biology, you name it. Pursue those other interests and recharge your dressmaking batteries.

When the time is right, you'll be overjoyed and excited at the prospect of a new historical costume, and the stitches will flow freely from your eager fingers.

So rest, relax, and try to embrace the slump. You'll be back at sewing in no time. <3

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

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A 1630s Dutch Mistress

A still from "Tulip Fever," a beautiful film with some very very historically accurate 1630s costuming.
Oh boy, am I torn on Costume College Gala plans for 2019. I really want to do something 17th century, but I have so many choices!

I secretly love almost all of the 17th century. Fashion and aesthetic changed quite drastically, so there is a lot to explore in those 100 years. I'm drawn to the 1660s (I made one gown a long time ago and loved it) and have some materials and a plan already for a gold duchesse satin gown....but I also love the 1630s, particularly Dutch fashion, and I also have some of the materials for my own rendition.

One of the clearest images I've found in my 1630s rabbit hole depicting vital details of the gown, bodice, and petticoat along with accessories and silhouette. Rijksmuseum, 1619-1623
I'm currently (that is, today at this minute) most drawn to the Dutch early 1630s for two reasons. One is that one of my besties gave me some imperial yellow silk for Christmas; the other is that Patterns of Fashion 5 has exactly the bodice (smooth covered stays) in it that I could not find resources for last year when I became interested in these gowns. Additionally, I have a ridiculous amount of near-black silk taffeta that's been marinating for several years and I took Constance Mackenzie's Elizabethan Ruffs class at Costume College. AND I saw a good number of these gowns in portraits at the Louvre this Fall, so..........ok, I guess that's actually five reasons.

Five reasons to make a gown is four reasons more than I really need. So I'll take this as an imperative from the Universe.

Frans Hals painted many portraits of noblewomen in this type of dress. Here is a detail from one such portrait.
Looking over the Patterns of Fashion 5 pages, the construction of the most showstopping piece, the smooth-covered stays, doesn't look that complex. There are only three pieces - back, front, and skirt - with boning in the front only, and pad stitching in the back shoulders and the skirt. There is a lot of handwork there, but I may take some shortcuts, like working falsie buttonholes for non-functional buttons, and possibly purchasing ready-made replica buttons from The Tudor Tailor instead of covering 30-some odd wooden molds with thread.

This bodice is in Patterns of Fashion 5 and also the Abegg-Stiftung book, the latter of which has several more examples. Early 1630s.
In addition to the lobster-tail smooth-covered stays, the ensemble needs a set of sleeves (matching the stays in brightass yellow and black), the gown itself, a petticoat, cuffs, the mother of all ruffs with a rabatto or picadil, jewelry (possibly a girdle), and the cap. I thankfully already have a shift, stockings, shoes, and a gigantic bum roll, but I may also need other or different skirt supports and a purpose-made underpetticoat.

Another of the bodices from the Abegg-Stiftung book, this one a little earlier and with matching sleeves, which weren't always present. The book notes that sleeves often matched the bodice, but were tied into the armscyes of the overgowns rather than always stitched to the under bodice. More on all that later...
In preparation for this project I went through the very complex, long, and confusing process orf hunting down a vital publication - Kölner Patrizier- und Bürgerkleidung des 17. Jahrhunderts Die Kostümsammlung Hüpsch im Hessischen Landesmuseum Darmstadt (Cologne patrician and citizen clothing of the 17th century The costume collection Hüpsch in the Hessian State Museum Darmstadt) from the Abegg-Stiftung website. This book is in German, but comes with an English translation of the first three chapters. It's full of detailed descriptions (most of which I can't read, lol - I'll find a way!) of many 17th century garments including the smooth-covered stays from Patterns of Fashion5, and partial surviving gown worn over. Despite the book being very expensive, difficult to purchase online (wire transfer?), not in my language, and slow in shipping from Switzerland (came in a bag?), it is an incredible tome of focused costume study from a period for which there are very few resources. I'm happy to have it!

This is the book is amazing.
I'm very excited for this project. I love weird and wonderful periods of dress, especially the ones that are least loved by the historical costuming world. I like the challenge of trying to get it portrait-right and learning the why's and how's along the way.



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