Monday, 30 April 2012

Elizabethan goes Oriental

My bead and sequin collection proved to be a little goldmine and I'm unashamedly going to "off piste" with my decoration.  It's all the fault of the beautiful red "bamboo" beads that I found in one of the boxes, which match perfectly with a set of multi-coloured carved beads with gold detailing.  I couldn't resist a nod to my childhood, quickly strung them onto a narrow black ribbon, pinned them onto the kirtle front and voila!, they're staying... it wasn't a hard sell ;o) 

Somewhere I have handfuls of faux black jet beads which could have possibly been pearls but they allude me so, one very successful bid on ebay later and for 79p (!) I will soon be in possession of 100 or so 6mm black glass faux pearls.  I also have hundreds of bugle beads and some 6mm brown gauze ribbon; I am toying with them for the bilament - though I am still toying with the idea of having a bilament at all; perhaps the pearl edging and necklaces will be enough... I'll see.

Meanwhile, I need to stop fiddling and get on with the smock. 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Elizabethan embelishments

It's time to start thinking about the finer detail of the kirtle and having looked at picture after picture without much luck or flashes of inspiration I decided to go back to my favourite Holbein and see what the Unknown Lady had to say.  As ever, she had the answer.  

She appears to have pearls sewn to the kirtle edge, as well as the pearl strands across her bodice, and a narrow bilament across the front of the kirtle.  I also love the ribbon ties to the sleeves, though I won't be copying the furlined sleeves.  Best detail of all (and this is a total copout on my part, to which I am perfectly ha[[y to admit), she does not have any blackwork embroidery detailing on show.  Phew!  I have pondered the prospect of embroidering the cuff sleeves since I started this project, but don't really think that it would suit.  It would be more of case of doing for the sake of doing.  

The Tudor bilaments that you can buy, tend to be a little too "bling" for my tastes.  I have boxes full of beads that my mother gave me a while ago, I'm going to raid them in the first instance.  The pearls are a definite must; black or white, I need to decide.  My instant thought was that black pearls would look amazing.  White ones however, might work to tie in the other white elements of the outfit.  It's time to browse, surf and maybe do a little shopping,,,

Kirtle Sleeves

This weekend I made the upper sleeves of the costume, the ones that can be sewn or laced to the kirtle shoulders.  An outer layer of black cotton was lined with cotton drill and I ironed on 1" wide strips of interfacing along the sleeve edge, where the eyelets for the bottom sleeves will be.  

There are benefits to waking up at 5.20am on a Saturday.  You can garden in your dressing gown and Birkenstocks and the neighbours will be none the wiser!  And you can handknit the piping cord for the top shoulder of the sleeve.  Pinning it to the top of the shoulder was not working, the pins couldn't work through the piping, so I carefully sewed it in place by eye; using the zipper foot on my machine and sewing inside the stitching line of the piping.

Following Margo's instructions to the letter, I sewed the arm seam together; folding down the piping so that it lay flat - as there was no instruction either way.

I followed the 1.5cm seam allowance for the lining and sewed a narrower seam allowance for the outer sleeve so that they would sit smoothly.  Margo's instructions left me with just one problem... the top, piped, edge does not join (below).  I unpicked it and resewed the piping so that they did.

I then happily set aside the rest of the instructions to handsew the lining to the outer sleeve.

Pining the top edge
Folding in the lining and the outer sleeve over
Top seam finished
Bottom seam finished

And I have two sleeves.  Margo suggests stitching them to the the kirtle but I am undecided.  A laced eyelet would be more adaptable but bulkier; I'm going to decide later on in the outfit.

Rascal, meanwhile, made himself at home :)

Friday, 27 April 2012

The hosepipe ban that bought the rain

If there was ever an English equivalent to the consititutional belief held by some Americans in their right to bear arms, it would be the right to use a hosepipe; so ingrained is our belief in our innate right to keep our grass green and our gardens growing!

Thus, the announcement of another, highly unpopular, hosepipe ban in the South of England has been met with great derision in some parts of the press over the last couple of weeks as, shortly after it was announced, the country experienced some of the most sustained and determined rain that we've seen in a good while.

Far from wondering about how to keep my plants watered and alive, I have been worrying about how to keep my newly planted veggies from drowing, being pummeled or succumbing to the very cold nights that have accompanied the rain.  I've not done very well.  I think that we'll give it a few weeks and try again.

The chooks have hated it too.  Although well covered, the rain still gets in at the sides of the run and, as I look at them from the kitchen, they stand together, all puffed up and glaring at me, all dry and warm!  Their favourite response is to retire to the coop; which pays dividends for us, we are overflowing in eggs. Those two have never laid so well!

Walking the dog has also been fun, I have been lucky and have managed to time our evening walks with the rare breaks in the rain that we seem to have early evening.  Of course, we prepare for the rain.  Most nights though, Megs has made a mockery of my "you will wear your coat" attempts to keep her dry; charging round the fields, slipping and sliding in the mud and coming home so happily filthy, I almost wish we'd been rained on instead. 

Another delight, has been the family of ducks who have moved into the bottom field, which is so waterlogged that it becomes a pond in a matter of hours.  They are quite the characters and seem to be very happy with their lateral thinking.  We've had no significant rain since yesterday afternoon, so the pond will be gone now but as I drove to work this morning I spotted one of the drakes stood by the road in the field of rape; his head and neck craning up against a blaze of yellow.  It was one of those moments that you commit to memory and wish that you could have somehow commited it to film too.

But the rain won't last, and it hasn't been enough, the ban is necessary for the greater good.  I shall remind myself of that when, in a couple of month's time, I'm worrying about dry plant beds and overheating chooks and dobes.  At least the grass, being fake, will always be beautifully green!

Love is in the air!

I think I've mentioned before that the wonderful Mr S is making an honest woman out of his lovely fiancĂ©e later in the year, and that I was lucky enough to be able to build them a website for their wedding.  Mr S and I finished it last night, with the obligatory (as far as I'm concerned anyway) mix of amusing, endearing and downright funny photos of the happy couple.

Now, I can't give too much away.  It is, of course, a private site and there's no way that I'm going to trample on their priavcy for the sake of a blog post, but  they won't mind my sharing just a couple of the details.

I love the combination of fonts in the main banner, and the crafted heart ampersand, in honour of Miss O's amazing crafty talents.  As for the silhouette; for all those that know C&G, it is them.  In fact, it couldn't be more perfectly so.

For the bottom of the site, I chose one of my favourite Robert Heinlein quotes; I think he describes it perfectly!

It's been a honour to be just a small part of the preparations and I am very much looking forward to the day itself; it is always a delight to see two people so perfectly suited share that with the rest of us. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Lakes, Easter 2012

Five of my favourite pictures from our time in the Lakes.

The Elizabethan Kirtle

Margo Anderson and I are not speaking.

It started on the first day of our holiday when, 3 hours before we were due to leave, I decided to very quickly measure up for, and order, the bones for the front of the kirtle; a post-climbing treat.  Just shy of 4 hours later we were in the car.  The bones were ordered and I was re-finding my inner calm, whilst Googling the answers to all my questions and, ultimately, finding ways to continue with this project.  I love unlimited data :)  

One thing that I was truly excited about at the start of this project was the Margo Anderson pattern and it's instruction manual; I had read great reviews of previous patterns/manuals and had great hopes.  I have now read the full instruction manual a couple of times and whilst it is a combination of hints and tips, techniques and specific instructions; it is driving me slightly mad!  Neverminding the errors in the instructions (the wrong piece named etc.), the most annoying thing is that they are full of holes and rely on you remembering pieces of information mentioned throughout the manual.  Even with sections marked up, I have wasted (and will continue to waste) hours piecing different bits of information together from all through the manual.  For example, the seam allowance is mentioned in a section on techniques but not in the instructions for making an item; or the kirtle edges are meant to be flatlined and seamed, but the flatlining instructions do not tell you how. The questioning and second-guessing saps your confidence too... I could go on and on, and would have gone slightly mad, bitching about each individual frustration.  Thanks to the extra research, I learnt enough to take the plunge and just got on and did what I wanted to do; I made my kirtle.  I don't know if it's as Margo would have wanted; I'm still not entirely sure it's accurate in it's fit etc. as I'm still not entirely sure how to achieve that!; but it's done and I'm pleased.  This is how I did it.

The Front Bodice:  I started by transposing the lines for the boning from my template to a piece of coutil; as you can see, it wasn't smooth sailing but I got there in the end!

I pinned a piece of black cotton drill to the back of the coutil and sewed in all of the channels; finishing off each end with a couple of reverse stitches and then by tying them off.  Once the channels were sewn I inserted the bones; I changed my plans at the last minute and did not put the double width of bones in at the sides.  To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure that I had interpreted the instructions accurately in the first place!  I then basted round the sides and top of the bodice; leaving the bottom open.  I then  trimmed the bodice back to a couple of millimetres from the basting line, I did not trim the bottom.

I cut two more bodice pieces out of the black cotton sheeting that I am using for the kirtle, and  a border out of the orange damask trim.  As you can see, I cut the first piece of damask on the wonk; I cut a second, better piece.

It was here that I entered into something of a debate with myself about the sizing of the bodice.  The width is dictated by the pattern and is meant to be 2-4" narrower than your chest size, to allow for the lacings.  At various points in the manual there are clues as to the depth of the bodice but it felt again like a decision that required an act of faith; one that made me slightly nervous as the depth (and sit) of the bodice effect both the smock and the outer gown.  In the end I went with the "bottom of bodice to sit just above the edge of the rib cage" advice and, consequently, decided to trim just over half an inch off the top.  I stitched in a new line, using my zipper foot, and trimmed it back again.

I had cut the outer lining pieces approx half an inch bigger than the bodice and decided that, to achieve the self lined and edged finish that the instructions ask for, I would handstitch on one side first and then the other.

I pinned and then pressed the first side around the bodice and slipstitched it in place.

I then pressed the edges of the other side to match the shape and slipstitched in place along the side and top outer seams.  Finally, I pressed the edges of the border piece and slipstitched in in place along the bottom and at the sides, leaving the top open.

Tudor gowns employ piping to define and shape edges.  The instructions called for modern cord but I decided to use the same handknit cotton string that I had used in the hem of the Victorian skirt.  I then cut a long strip of border fabric and encased the cord within it.

I slipped the piping in between the border fabric and the bodice; trimmed and then stitched closed the ends and slipstitched the piping in place.

With the exception of the bottom seam, I now had the front piece of the bodice done.

The Back Bodice: followed in much the same way.  Only two bones were to be sewn in the back, and I wanted it to be softer then the front piece, so I used casing on a piece of cotton drill. 

I lined it on both sides with the top cotton, using the same method as with the front piece.

Making sure that I clipped and pinned the armhole curves.

Finally, I slipstitched a border piece onto the back and piping around the neckline.

The Kirtle Skirt: I made up the skirt according to the instructions and did not stop for photos.  It was simple enough, four panels plus a forepart of the orange damask which was flatlined to a lining piece of cotton.  Each side seam was sewn to 7" of the waistline and finished with a placket.   The seams were all handstitched closed with a french seam.  The front and back panels were then pleated to fit the with of the bodice panels.

Again, the instructions were not clear about attaching the skirts cleanly to the bodice pieces.  I decided to pin and machine them to the back of each panel; matching right side to right side and then folding the seam towards the top of the panel and pressing it in place.

This gives a lovely, secure, finish at the back.

It was quick and simple to then pin and slipstitch the front of the panel in place.

The bodice is laced up at both sides, so I handed my hours of handstitching over to the boyf who hammered in the eyelets for me.  I don't trust myself to make a mistake with them so late in a project.

And then it was time to try it all on and fit the shoulder straps, once I'd finished playing Tudor Lady...  Please ignore the black Gap vest which I wore under the corset to replicate the fabric layer of a smock.  I also had the bumroll and petticoat on under the kirtle, for full effect.  It's gorgeous, I love the shape, but it is heavy!  I will have to take that into account when choosing fabric for the top gown.  And I admire the stamina of ladies who make these costumes in upholstery fabrics, brocades and wools!

The side lacings (temporarily laced with ribbon), over the kirtle and bumroll.

I just love the colours and am really thrilled.  The top sleeves need to be added, but I couldn't resist posting now.  Two weeks ago I doubted my ability, or desire, to get this done; this feels like a huge, confidence boosting step forward.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Another goodbye...

Just back from our holiday I was looking forward to posting my favourite pictures of the week away.  Instead, I'm posting my favourite picture of my little Red Hen, who is now resting peacefully under the bay tree with her friend Randy and the guinea boys.  She was a fine chook, I loved her dearly.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Drawing the Kirtle Pattern

A Kirtle is the Tudor equivalent of a dress.  The first layer of the outergarments, it sits on top of the underwear (smock, corset and petticoats) and forms the basis of the main outfit.  After the corset and petticoat, it is the next piece that needs to be made; the smock, which sits in between, is made after the Kirtle so that it can matched to the neckline.

Having cut out the pattern pieces, I spent today drawing out my own, adjusting the originals to match my measurements.  My measurements range from a US size 2 (neck and bust) to a 10 (waist) so there was a fair amount of adjusting to be done to the bodice.  I am also 5.5 inches taller than the patterns are designed for, so I needed to lengthen them too.

Note the rucksacks in the background?  We're out all next week, enjoying the great outdoors!

I use greaseproof paper to redraw my patterns, it is my favourite paper for this; smooth, transparent, fabulous to cut and durable.

The back of the bodice, done!

Lengthening the skirts by so much meant that the outer line was drastically out; normally you draw a line that sits somewhere in between the originals but, after a bit of internal debate, I decided against this as it narrowed the top of the skirt pattern by as much as an inch.  As fullness is an essential part of the Kirtle skirt, and I have chosen to make it out of cotton sheeting, which is the lightest recommended material, I decided that the addition of an inch to the pattern would be preferable to the loss of one.

It was time, finally, to decide what fabric would go where and, a quick sketch later, I have come up with a plan.  I have enough of my remnant of damask to use as the front of the kirtle skirt (the forepart, the section which is visible underneath the outer gown), the foresleeves and as the bodice trim on the Kirtle's neckline.  The rest of the Kirtle will be made from black cotton, the gown from a, as yet unpurchased, dark grey or black brocade, and the turned over linings of the sleeves in the dark orange jacquard that I bought yesterday.  I'm excited by how it's coming together.  

I had hoped to at least make the Kirtle's skirt today but the patterns took far longer to decipher and draw than I anticipated.  A Kirtle bodice is separate pieces laced together and is designed to be smaller than the torso that it's covering.  The pattern instructions were, again, not the clearest; different parts of the instructions in different places in the manual.  On a contemporary piece of clothing I would know exactly how an adjustment would effect a pattern; on this, it was worth the extra time and effort to find out all I could and then be sure of the bits in between which I needed to guess at.  It was also rather nice to have something to puzzle through!  

So, as this will all now have to wait a week, whilst I sit on a cold, wet mountain top, enjoying the glories of nature with my family, I couldn't resist cutting out just one piece fabric.  A promise to myself for next weekend.  In the meantime, if I get the chance, before we leave tomorrow, I will order the steels for the bodice's boning and the laces.  That way I'll be completely ready to go.
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