Thursday, 30 June 2011

Miss M and Little M - two little chooks

Thank you chooks and thank you mollychicken for the darling pattern.  It's been a wonderful evening's sewing!  I wasn't looking for a pattern, but I am so pleased I found it as everything else just then fell into place.

Miss M is a very yellow chook, with a bright tastes and worthy of a little decorative stitching. 

A very orange beak...

and wide, wide button eyes.

She has spotty wings,

and bright blue hair!

She came together in less than an hour.

Little M, lives (part-time) in her egg.

A pretty egg, which nestles safely in Miss M's starry pouch.

Miss M needs a little substance, we will be going shopping tomorrow... but for now I think that she and Little M look very content together.

For proper instructions, follow mollychicken's link above: I've just truly enjoyed the making!

Panic, whilst the Dobe sleeps

I have block!

At this rate the 10 yr old will be 11 before she has thank you cards to write and, more importantly, my dear friend Miss M is off on maternity leave next Tuesday and its not that I can't think of anything to make, its that I have an increasing pile of half-mades all looking at me!

I am making in uninspired "surely this will be the one" desperation; on the plus side, I have at least two potential presents for my mother (she says with cheeky grin!)

Miss M was our new chook's original mum; little red hen no.2, far right.  Chooks, chooks, chooks... they're all I can think about but, given that she's rehomed her last one with me partly due to her new arrival, I can't decide if anything chook-related would be suitable.  I think attempt no. 4 (?!?) needs to be something poultry, if only to get it out of my system!

The Dobe, in the meantime, is feeling my pain, I'm sure...  We call her Kanga for her bouncy nature, but that tail's not far off either!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Another year older...

well not just yet; I have 2 more hours before it becomes official!  But the 9 yr old is now the 10 yr old and I can hardly believe it; who would have thought 10 years would fly by so quickly, or that I would feel as muddled now by motherhood as I did then!  Certainty, in motherhood, I have decided is not an option; but hope is.  I hope the 10 yr old is as happy with her mother as her mother is with her.  She can have her moments, and there's work still to be done, but looking at her this weekend I could just burst with pride - not a bad birthday present at all!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Ooh the excitement!!

Patience was rewarded and both the petticoat and bloomers arrived today... beautifully packaged on both counts, it felt a little like Christmas! 

The bloomers fit perfectly but are so baggy at the seat that they look quite ridiculous; I don't mind admitting that they make me smile and a little ditzy!  The lace at the bottoms of the legs is just beautiful and in extraordinary condition.

The petticoat is just divine!  Too small at the waist as I knew, but I will add ribbons to tie it, I don't want to mess with the gather at the waistband.  It is very full and sits under my fantail skirt very nicely; adding real fullness to the front of the skirt.  I will need to use horsehair braid on the hem of the skirt, but that's no great shame; I am secretly pleased to get the chance to try this out!  And although lightly stained, the petticoat looks lovely, the construction is amazing and there are no tears or holes.  It is a beautiful piece of sewing, I could almost be tempted to wear it as a skirt...

And no... I couldn't resist a can-can moment, but the legs seriously need a tan!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I'm getting impatient with being patient!

But my bloomers have gone through customs and my petticoat is somewhere over the Atlantic!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Making the Fantail skirt... part two (technically three!)

I finished the waistband today, pressed, folded over with a 1/2 inch fold, hand sewn in place... and straight back into Miss G for a good look and some photographs!

I am so pleased!  Just now need to be patient and then I can hem and finish the waistband; instead of a hook and eye I think I will either use ribbon to tie it closed or find a vintage button.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Megs sews...

The Dobe decided to help me with my sewing today; "stupid dog!" was the least accurate thing I could have shouted as she had worked out that if my paw on the foot pedal made it work, then her paw would too!  I'm just not very good with runaway sewing machines, especially when finishing a seam.  Once we'd sorted whose paw was going to run the machine, Megs decided to first sit on my foot, before settling with her head on it instead.  It's lovely to have company when I'm sewing...!

I have been trying not to do any more work on my skirt until my undergarments have arrived so that I can check the fit and hem.  That said, today I really wanted to do some work on it, so I finished the last two seams and started the waistband.  I have sewn the first side of the waistband on, the gather at the back is very tight so I wanted to take my time and get it right.  I couldn't resist a quick fitting with my corset on and got a quick taste of what a Victorian woman would have felt like... I now know why they needed a ladies' maid; the corset was on quite loose, but between its restriction and the amount of fabric in the skirt, it was near impossible to get the skirt on, with petticoats and all the rest, you would need help!  I do love how different it feels though.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

That didn't take long....

eBay and I are becoming best friends this week!  I had a quick browse for bloomers and petticoats, not expecting to find anything, and was instantly caught by these.  The bloomers are in near mint condition and I think that the detailing at the bottom of the leg is just so pretty; delicate but not fussy, suits me nicely.

The petticoat caught my eye immediately with the its fantastically broad band of pleats.  It is that level of detail, on even the simplest of undergarments, which draws me to Victorian clothing.  It is so beautifully constructed.  The waistband is too small, but the gather is so tight that I can easily adjust it if I need to.  The fullness should work well under my skirt and will answer the horsehair braid issue.  It is in need of a wash as it looks to be rust stained in places but I have experience of washing vintage clothing so I am hopeful of being able to work a little magic.  Either way it was too beautiful a piece to turn down for a little staining.

So, all done.  For almost exactly the same amount as patterns and fabric would have cost, I will soon be the proud owner to some original Victoriana.  It was important from the outset to have at least one original piece as part of the whole outfit.  I am making this costume as authentically as I can because part of the reasoning behind it is to be able to truly experience dressing as a Victorian lady would; I do not want to be responsible for a pastiche.  This feels like a very good step in the right direction.

I love it when a plan comes together!

My old house was old, but the interior was sleek, cream and modern.  I've built up a collection antiques, particularly Oriental ones, over the years and in the old house we enjoyed the juxtaposition of old and new. Moving to a 600 year old timber-beamed cottage required a rethink as we had to honour the beauty of the building.  Modern would not work, so we replaced our sleek cream fabric sofa for a leather Chesterfield; our maple dining table for a dark Oak Rectory table and mixed my existing antiques with a wonderful collection of what the boyf fondly refers to as "very nice toot"!  Almost everything we own is now stored in a vintage suitcase, hat box or trunk and pride of place goes to a matching pair of antique Chinese wedding baskets (right of picture) which are the most interesting bookshelves I've ever owned, and double as coffee tables in the process.  One thing we could not find was a magazine rack, and then I found on a 1950s Atomic on eBay... I love these racks!  They are everything I love about 50s vintage: quirky but elegant; able to stand their ground, but subtle enough to mix well with other styles.  It was a small risk, but one I'm glad I took; I am so pleased with little Joan.  And no, I don't often name my accessories... but Joan Jetson would be proud!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Making the Fantail skirt... an interlude

The boyf is sometimes fondly known as the "Appliance Whisperer" at home, for his uncanny knack of making the most temperamental of electronic devices behave!  As it was yesterday evening with the iron, which positively flirted with him and stubbornly refused to work for me...

Tonight the Appliance Whisperer, is with the 9 yr old and the Dobe, whispering them around an agility course and so I hoped to plough on with my skirt.  Sadly, the iron has obviously heard of my attempt to replace it this afternoon and I have got no further than sewing the front panels to the back.  I may be a lazy seamstress at times, but I have my principles; I will not sew an unpressed seam!   It is so tantalisingly close to being finished... I couldn't resist and have pinned it back onto Miss G.  What is evident is that it will need a petticoat and possibly a trim.  Perhaps a narrow black ribbon an inch or two from the hem.  I am also going to look at some horsehair braid; traditionally used to weight and form the hem.

I feel a little vintage shopping on... I always intended to buy some vintage bloomers, I may now add a petticoat to that too :)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Making the Fantail skirt... part one

A rather bleak and rain-filled Sunday afternoon seemed the perfect time to finally start the Fantail skirt.  I have chosen the full design, with a train.

Having cut the pieces, I pinned the each fantail to a back piece and sewed in place with a 1/2 inch seam.

Once sewn, I joined them together and sewed the full back seam, starting 8" down from the waistband (for the placket) and paying close attention at the point at which the top of the fantail was sewn in.

I am in many ways a lazy sewer - I don't mark notches, where a pin will do! - and could be accused of rushing, but this pattern is a dream to work with and in less than an hour after cutting out the pieces I was looking at the fantail of my skirt.  It came together so quickly, it was very tempting to just keep going...

but I want to be able to bore my grandchildren showing them this skirt! and so the placket and seams are folded and sewn in, I do love this finish.

In my aim to use as much as I can from my current stash, I chose a black satin bias binding for the ties which will be used to create the gathered point at the back of the dress.

and gold Christmas ribbon!  Not an entirely daft choice, it doesn't twist under the binding and has a slightly rough texture, which holds the gather well.  Once the skirt is finished, I don't plan to leave the ribbons adjustable; they will be trimmed and the bias sewn closed to prevent further fraying; no one but me (and you!) will know of my Christmas ribbons.  To pull the ribbon through the binding, I attached it to a wooden skewer, far easier to use than a needle.

And, I have a gather!  The illustration on the pattern shows a double gather, which I prefer...

and so I sewed a second layer of bias 3" above the first.

Moving to the front pieces, I sewed in the pleats; laziness again, I just pin, press and trust my straight-eye!

Pinned the two side panels to the front, and sewed them in place. 

I finished the seams and decided to call it a day; but couldn't resist quickly pinning it onto Miss G for a sneaky peak of what the final skirt will look like.

As a footnote: after a bit of thought, Miss G is permanently clad in corset and chemise and the rest of the costume made to follow those measurements.  The patterns, I presume, work from standard measurements, whereas with the corset and chemise on, my measurements are in places quite different.  I am, therefore, working to those measurements instead.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A culinary diversion!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to cook, but not only that, I am passionate about the food that we eat.  I buy organic, fairtrade, ethical, local, I want to know where my food has come from and how it got to my plate; not always possible, or easy, but I care to try to find out.

And so I have watched with interest a good friend's near instant conversion to a vegan diet (see and the recipes that she has posted.  As part of her process she watched Earthlings, a profound movie that I am still struggling my way through.  As with all arguments made to have the strongest impact some of the detail is truly horrifying, but it was in some of the "quieter" details that I think I found myself most shocked by.  It has left me greatly ashamed of the cruelty that we humans are capable of and mindful of the fact that the vast majority of people have no idea of the cruelty being perpetuated in their name; for their much-loved pets, food, clothing, medicine and entertainment.  We may know the odd detail, hear the odd story, see the odd picture, but we do not have the full transparency that allows us to make truly informed and conscious choices.  I can only hope that we would choose differently we truly knew.

Added to that the information that I learnt about how meat production impacts global hunger and I came away determined to set myself a culinary challenge, for just a week to start with, and eat even more consciously that I have done before.  So I made a deal with the boyf and the 9 yr old; if I could, at our local supermarket, stock our larder to live predominantly vegan/vegetarian for a week, they would be up to the challenge of trying some meat free eating.  I was going to go predominantly vegan for the week and only vegetarian if I had to.

If I am brutally honest, I can not imagine a meat-free future for myself.  This was more an intellectual challenge and a chance to cook differently again and expand my culinary horizons.  I was also very interested by people's reactions; vegetarian... a slight mutter; VEGAN... well, I think a good majority of the folk I know think that I have gone just plain crazy!

But it has been extremely easy, I don't miss meat, I have loved the cooking - which is quite a different experience - and the experimenting.  I feel far more in tune with what I am making, willing to try flavours and marry new ideas together.  And, most amazingly of all, I feel at peace with what I eat.  I don't think about what I'm making or eating in the same way that I did, I don't worry about the fat-salt-blah-blah-blah content, I don't wonder where is came from and if it really is local, free-range, ethical as it says it is (don't get me started on packaging and labelling!)  I just cook, eat, and enjoy!

And to those of you that would argue that I think too much... I say that you don't think enough!  We all have the choice to make our own path, but we have the responsibility to do it in the best way that we can, not only for ourselves but for our health and our children and our place on this planet.  If we all truly believed that we should leave this planet in some way better than we found it, we would all be living in a far better state right now.  So we can start with what we put in our bodies, the sustenance that enables everything else we do... go learn, go think, go experiment and I dare you not to, in just the teeny tiniest way, like it!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

TV225... the start of a Fantail Skirt

I have my fabulous fabric, have thrifted together the other pieces I need (bias binding, ribbon for ties etc.) from my stash and having looked at everything for at least two weeks now, I am finally ready to make one Victorian Fantail skirt :)

One stumbling block was that my measurements fell exactly between too sizes; another was that the pattern would need to be lengthened.  Both minor, minor details, I know!; but when preparing to cut your New York bought material, with no hope of getting more should you make a mistake... well, my brain needed to procrastinate!

So, all sorted.  I did not want to cut the original patterns and have instead spent a happy evening sellotaping together some sheets of tracing paper (with the sellotape that the Dobe hadn't managed to chew through, she does so love to help!) and cutting out my new, longer pattern pieces...

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Halloween Invitations.. made and in the post

Halloween this year is going to be special.  Fancy dress as ever, but a small gathering rather than a large party.  It's based on dinner nights that the boyf and I started hosting just after we met, the Grahame & Green dinners, a chance for us to flex our culinary muscles and host a perfectly planned evening with lots of lovely touches.  We've not had a G&G for ages and so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to flex our rusty cooking muscles!

The invitations needed to be sent out early, to guarantee numbers and let me tie up a few more details too ;o) and so they had to be good and memorable.  As my Victorian costume is for Halloween we were looking at a period themed party, but I wanted to give people options as well so it could just as easily be Frankensteinian or a little Rocky Horror.  I also wanted to use skeletons as my main motif this year.  So, I decided on little skeleton messengers, posted in their own coffin... Gothic but not too scary!

The skeleton I found on Ben & Jerry's website (they're not only good for ice-cream!) and printed him off onto  sheets of thick white card.  Ignoring the ice-cream toting limbs (sorry B&J) I cut out the skeletons and joined their limbs with 4.5mm black round head brads.

The wording for the invitation was printed on to mini luggage tags and tied around the skeleton's necks.  To put the text onto the tags I printed it onto clear labels, deconstructed the tags, stuck the labels on each side of tag, trimmed them, repunched the holes and then put the tags back together again, gluing on the hole reinforcers and retreading the ties.

I won't say it wasn't a lot of work, but they are worth it!  The font, Bleeding Cowboys, is wonderful and reads so well, even at 6pt.

The text reads:
Grahame & Green do Halloween! 
The Year is 1882 and in a cottage, in a secluded village in Essex, 
Dr Grahame & Prof. Green plot their most macabre experiment yet... 
 Your attendance, from 7.30pm on the eve of Friday 28th October, is required. 
Suitable costume advised.

The scene is set....

I then moved onto the coffins.  Tracing a basic shape from a book, I made three templates; the base, the lid and the lining.  You can download the template here; print at 100% on A4 paper.  The base is 10mm deep, the lid is 3-4mm longer and wider than the base and 5mm deep, the lining is 2mm shorter and narrower than the base.

As I wanted black coffins, I couldn't print the template onto the card so I traced it instead.  I used an awl to pin prick each point in the card and then joined the dots to redraw each piece.

Once cut out, I folded each line against the ruler for a smooth, sharp crease, and glued the tabs.  I decided to line each coffin in a fabulous corrugated red card that I found.  I cut lengths 8mm wide trimmed them to length (the circumference of the internal measurement of the coffin) and glued them in place.  I then glued in the inner lining.  The lids, at 5mm deep, I decided were too narrow to line.  I had originally wanted to use double-sided tape but was not having any luck; the shapes would start to come apart.  I then I found an old pot of craft glue in the garage; thank goodness for fast-drying craft glue! 

Finally I found/Photoshoped a variety of luggage labels and stickers, and a stamp.  I printed them onto some white labels, cut them out and decorated the coffin; this is a well-travelled skeleton!

I hand-wrote the names on and packaged the coffin up in a length of red embroidery thread.  
All ready to go...

A4 card (120gms or more, depending on your printer) in White
A4 card (heavyweight) in black and red (corrugated or textured if possible)
Luggage tags
Avery Labels in clear and white
4.5mm round head black brads (8 per skeleton)
Red embroidery thread or string
Good Craft Glue
Scissors, ruler, awl or sharp pencil, pencil, black pen, hole punch

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