Tuesday, November 14, 2017

And now, I have internet again!

I took this photo of a beautiful example of mid 16th Century Venetian painting on October 29 2017 right outside of Padua.   I'm currently living in Veneto, in Vicenza, which is about halfway between Venice and Verona.  Yes, I'm eating up every minute of it.  I will post a LOT more photos of these paintings I've seen in real life now.  What I love about the one above is the mix of goldwork and blackwork in the outfit.  The chemise has a lot of lovely blackwork but the partlet has a lot of gold work. 

Anyway, I'm back online! 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Small Break: Fabric Stores

So, I realized I haven't posted in a while.  Mea culpa.  In between Pennsic (in which I did make a few new dresses and chemises for!), Grad School, and now moving, I've had zero time to post anything here.     Earlier today, I was looking for what I thought I had posted months ago, a list of fabric stores, and couldn't find it.   At least, I can post that  (and then stop procrastinating and continue packing...)

This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you have a favorite fabric store that is not listed and isn't Joanns, then add it to the comments. These are just stores I've dealt with and have some idea of the quality of the fabrics they sell.

[Fabric Guru] has mostly drapery fabrics but some pretty good buys as well.

[Fabric dot com] has all the things. They used to be awesome but Amazon bought them out so now that Steve is no longer in charge, the coupons aren't fast and furious anymore.

[Denver Fabrics]
and [Fashion Fabrics Club] are the same store. Denver fabrics was a privately owned business that got bought out years ago. Unfortunately, I've had a few bad experiences with them (they'll say something is 100% wool and I doubt it even had wool in it!) so be wary.

[Renaissance Fabrics]
is droolable. I love all their fabrics. Of course, they are on the pricey side but it's worth it for a few of their fabrics.

[Syfabrics] is a seller on ebay but also has a website. I've never had a problem with them and love a lot of the fabrics I've gotten.

[B & J fabrics]
probably stands for Broke & Jobless because their fabrics tend to be so $$$ that that's what you'll be. However, they sometimes have some rare fabrics that are impossible to find elsewhere.

[Pure silks] is a great place to go if you need that specific color of silk taffeta. They aren't outrageous in their prices (about $19 a yard on average) but they are shipping from overseas so it can be slow sometimes.

[Dharma Trading]
is one I've used mainly for dyes. I know others have bought fabric from them. I've never heard a complaint.

[Fabric Store] is where you go if you want linen. You do not bother with anywhere else - except Carolina Fabrics who only travel to SCA events.

[Prism Silks] used to be [Golden Silks]. I've bought silk velvet and silk taffeta from them. They are simply fabulous.

[Burnley & Trowbridge] focus mostly on 18th C fabrics. However, a lot of their stuff can be used for almost any era. Price wise, they are pretty comparable to everyone else

[William Booth Draper] is another 18th C specialty store.

[Sartor] focuses on medieval and Renaissance fabrics. I've seen every one of their fabrics in person. You want all of them. Considering the work that goes into some of the reproductions, their prices are pretty reasonable. I bought some of their fabric on special order at Pennsic.

[Fabric Mart] - watch out for their sales! They have daily sales, the as-is fabric (typically, it's a line through the fabric that you can easily work around), and monthly sales.  I've gotten a TON of wool and linen from them for well under $10 a yard.   Sign up for their newsletters!

And, of course, there is good ole ebay & etsy.  However, you are taking a chance for the most part with either of those.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lemon Drop Cookies

A few of my co-workers will be leaving our project tomorrow so we are having a mini going away party.  For that, I'm making my Vegan Apple Cinnamon Swirl Bread and Lemon Drop Cookies.  The lemon drop cookies are pretty basic but are oh so good!   The recipe is as follows:


  • 1/2 cup of stick butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups lemon drops (I got mine at the local Amish market but I think you can get them at Wegman's as well)


Preheat oven to 350F. My oven is old and ready to break down, so I preheat the oven to 355F.  

Mix in a large bowl the butter, the white sugar, and the brown sugar until it's blended.  This takes a bit, particularly if the butter isn't softened.  You might want to leave the butter out for a half hour or so just to make it easier to mush with the sugars.   Next is the eggs, the baking soda, the lemon extract,  and the vanilla extract.  Having a bit of both vanilla and lemon really gives the cookies a great taste.   Then add in the salt, lemon drops, and flour. Once this is mixed together, put small spoonfuls of the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet. I normally line my cookie sheets with tin foil for easy clean up. Cook for about 15 minutes (check them at 12).   

This ends up making roughly 4 dozen cookies.  :-)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dyeing the natural way :-)

Last year, you may recall, I played around with indigo dye and got some fabulous results:

This year, I wanted to play around with madder and safflower.  I bought a few jars from Fabric Treasury on Etsy and ended up with enough dye to last me for a while.  I wasn't able to get the acidity right for the safflower to turn pink (based upon other blogs it will turn Barbie would be jealous PINK for linen and silk) but the left most yarn in the picture is from the yellow safflower.  It's really a lovely bright yellow.

The yarn I was using is all natural wool yarn. Since I wanted the bit of linen (not shown) I had to turn pink, I added madder to the dye pot and then reduced the acidity, and added another wool skien. All the fabric I used was soaked in alum and water before I dyed it. The middle yarn is the color I got from the safflower plus a bit of madder. It's a really nice peachy tangerine color in person. The last one is just pure madder and I redyed the linen in that as well. The linen came out a rather nice pale rose and will be made into sleeves to go with a brown linen/cotton kirtle. (I LOVE pink and brown together. I don't like brown on it's own but other warm colors on it really make the warm colors pop.)

Because the madder is a bit old and not freshly ground, I wasn't able to get a deep red. However, the orangey red I did get is a pretty solid color. I'm really happy with it. Now, to figure out some natural green dyes they would have used in the middle ages...

Some other tidbits I should mention - to the madder pot, I used just regular old tap water and smashed a calcium pill to get the chalk necessary for "hard" water. I think this really helped to get the best color I could.

I used an old large pot I found at the thrift store for $3 on sale. It's big enough to fit about four yards of a lightweight fabric in. As is, I had no issues with the 1 1/2 yard of linen and a skien of wool. 8

That's the safflower dye pot with a wool skien in it. I did try to get natural wool at the Maryland sheep and wool festival but they wanted $20 a skien. 0_o? So, Etsy it was and I easily found the five I did for $25 - much more reasonable! I don't want them hand spun on a spindle by a spinster! I just want basic undyed wool.

For the failed safflower to turn pink experiment, I used borax and vinegar.  I think I just made it too acidic, the test strips I had for the acid test only went up to 9 and I need to go to a pool store to get a PH reader that will go up to 11 or higher.  You are supposed to get it to 11 PH and then bring it back down to 6 to get a lovely pink.  I have more than enough that I can experiment some more!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Remade Jeans into Jean shorts

This was a really simple sewing project I did the other day.  I haven't owned shorts in ages but see they are coming back into fashion.  I was thinking of just buying a pair but I had a pair of old jeans that I normally use for cutting the grass.  They were getting a wear spot right at the shorts line so...time to cut them up and make shorts!

I added the eyelet trim to the cuffs of the shorts after cutting off the jeans legs.  I also added pieces of indigo cotton above where the wear spots were because the fabric was pretty thin.  I stay stitched these pieces down using an indigo colored thread that you really can't see unless you know what you are looking for.  Even then, it's difficult.   There are a couple of minor holes on the front that I stay stitched and will most likely embroider over later.  

It's a very simple project but I now have shorts for the summer!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

How to annoy an archeofashionista quickly!

I just got back from Vegas and wanted to share this....mash up with everyone. This is the quickest way to get an archeofashionista's eye to twitch. What is an archeofashionista? It's someone who is into historical fashions, recreates them, follows the historical fashion circles, and who's eyes bleed when people mix and match fashion eras wrong. Basically, it's most of the people reading this. :-) And yes, it's a term I came up with after seeing this monstrosity.

How can a famous Regency fashion plate be next to a famous Edwardian fashion plate?!? How!?! They cannot exist together!!!!!! *twitch*

These were up in my room at the Venetian and my Mom thought I was being silly getting all upset about this mash up. :-) I mean, some how the SCA doesn't bother me but this does. Probably because, at least in the SCA, everyone knows what time period they are from. People that see this won't realize it's all cut outs of fashion plates from very different eras and areas. ...I might try to find each of the fashion plates later. I'm pretty sure the Regency one is from between 1817-1820....

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New Retro Looking Dress

I bought the fabric for the dress at my local thrift store a couple of years ago. It was clearly vintage - based on the width and the design. I'm pretty sure 1950's. The design is of St. Mark's Square in Venice with Venice written under it. The colors are mostly natural, black, peach, and teal. I knew I wanted to make a retro looking dress with it but only recently decided on a pattern. The fabric itself is perfect for where I'm going this weekend - the Venetian in Vegas. :-)

The Process

I cut out McCall's M6959:

I went with the main dress view which is a nice, simple, wrap dress - or so I hoped. It wasn't. I cut out everything, tried the dress on before wrapping bias tape all around the edges and...the way the front is cut is completely wonky. It fit perfectly at the waist but there is no way in any sort of Universe that the front bodice could fit over even a cup A, let alone my two lumps of fat I have permanently stuck above my lungs. Yes, it has darts, but the way the opening was....that just wasn't going to happen. And the darts? They ended up almost under my arms...despite the waist fitting perfectly. o_0?

The bodice side seams and the skirt seams will not match up. Don't even try. It's not worth it. The shoulders are for a linebacker. I have no idea why anyone would need that much space on their shoulders without using shoulder pads. ....So I recut the back slightly to redo the shoulders and lower the back neckline. The front I had to completely recut. I moved the dart to where it should be, redesigned the front edge so it would cover my chest, and recut the shoulders on the front. Once I had the front edge where I wanted, I added the three packages of black bias tape all around the edges. Add it to the sleeve edge before you fully sew on the sleeve so it has a nice and neat edge.

I also added a ribbon fluffy thing to the front over of the dress. It needed something there. Here are the pictures of the final dress on the dress dummy. If I do the dress again, the only other thing I'd change is to make the waist another another 1" lower.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pajama Bottoms Via Pinterest!

I kept seeing this pattern for free "boudoir" shorts running around pinterest and thought to give it a try. A couple of big important things about this pattern:
  • You have to print it out and piece it together
  • There are no instructions for how to sew it together. You have to buy those

I figured that I've pieced together patterns - including some of my own- before so, eh. Also, I'm a pretty accomplished seamstress at this point. I knew I could figure out the pattern if I bothered to think it through.

So...here's what I ended up with:

New Doctor Who PJ bottoms to go with my Doctor Who t-shirt. :-)

The following are the way I created them. This is not necessarily the way you are supposed to - just the way that made sense to me.

First, I sewed, right sides together, the front and back pieces at the crotch and then added the front "flap" piece to the back side.

I then hemmed the edge of the flat - not a tube yet- leg. I did a roll hem for the Doctor Who ones but whatever works best for you, do it.

Then, once I had two flat leg pieces, I sewed them right sides together at the crotch seam. I then flipped it, folder the "flap" piece over the front. On the pattern for the front is a triangle a few inches away from the center front; I used this as the "marker" for where the back flip should end it's crossover. I then pinned the flaps and stay stitched them. I would recommend at this point, stay stitching down the overlap edge (from the waist to the end of the overlap) as I didn't do this and had to go back and do it.

I then cut out a piece of elastic to my waist measurement and sewed both ends of the elastic together securely. I then matched the elastic with the edge of the PJ bottoms (right side of the fabric) and stretched it to sew along the top of the fabric and the elastic. I then flipped the elastic in and stitched it down along the bottom of elastic.

That's it! I now have a couple pairs of summer PJ bottoms!

They are basically feminine boxers. I would not recommend these as anything other than PJ bottoms - they look a bit like a 1920's granny undies really. Also, I would suggest going down a size and just cutting the back bottom inseam a bit deeper - they are pretty baggy. Not horrible but I'd feel a bit more comfortable a size smaller.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Dress!

I saw the lovely totally acetate cherry blossom brocade at Joanns back in February, I believe, and had to have it. I bought about five yards with the intent to make an Easter dress. I finally decided on a style for said dress in late March and needed some pink organza (silk!) to match the brocade.

My inspiration for making my Easter dress was from this image of a 1950's/early 1960's pattern:

I looked through my own patterns and realized a good dress pattern base is Simplicity 3673. I used style C - which is the wider skirt version of the pattern. I've used this pattern before but that was pre-weight loss. Luckily, the way the pattern is designed, it's only four pieces and very easy to trace the smaller size from the bigger one I cut out.

The bodice, shown above, is what I changed the most. I cut the organza so it would be a cross over style by extending from the center fold over and keeping the armscye where it was. I also made the strap wider for the organza to get a bit of a gather at the shoulder. I cut the bodice under front out of the cherry blossom but also changed the neckline of it slightly so you just get a whisper of it from under the organza.  In the picture, the blue line is mostly the original brocade front bodice pattern and the actual edge is what I used for the organza.

Another change was with the skirt back. There is one picture of the skirt back in the pattern with only two darts and others with three. The pattern piece calls for three but with three darts on each side in the back, the skirt will not match up to the bodice back at the side seams. The bodice back isn't supposed to be gathered. So, to make it fit, I took out the middle of the three back darts and it works perfectly.

Overall, I love my new dress and I even got compliments on it at Church. :-)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shepherd's Hut Updates!

As some of you know, I love talking about shepherd's huts. They are one of my favorite topics in the SCA, partly because NO ONE else talks about them and therefore, no one else knows about them. :-) The bigger reason is that I love the idea of having a "tiny house" that is period correct for SCA events. The set up is easy. I drop the trailer and...that's it. The only stuff I really take out of the trailer to "set up" are the shepherd's hooks for all the lanterns around my campsite. Everything else is done. I can - and have- crawl right into bed immediately after landing at a site and go to sleep. I really, really like that. Setting up a tent - period or not- at 9 pm is not a fun way to start an event. Driving up and dropping the trailer, followed by going straight to bed is.

1500 Map of Europe

I want to start with a map of Europe in the year 1500 because I will be referring to this map later. I want everyone to understand what I mean when I say "French controlled" areas because, as I've discovered, the shepherd's hut seems to be a French invention. I'll go into my theories as to why that is later but, for now, let's look at the map. (Yes, I will get to the shepherd's huts and all the pretty pictures, I promise).  You may notice that France is pretty, well, PINK.  You might also notice that that pink extends into a good chunk of Northern Italy and a piece of the kingdom of Naples.

In the early 16th Century, France and Spain were fighting over the Kingdom of Naples - Naples being a huge port city.  Whoever controlled Naples also had good control over a lot of  the imports from the Middle East to include Egypt.  I won't go into all the reasons for the fighting but just know that the Italian Wars are a thing. They last from 1494 until 1559.  This means that yes, that pink area north of Naples is the French controlled area.  Sicily is under direct Spanish control.  Pretty much the entire western half of the Mediterranean is being fought over between Spain and France.

Meanwhile, in England... Although it was over for 50 years almost by the time of this map, the Hundred Years War has profound affects on both English and French cultures. There is already a fabulous post on English History Authors that explains why English is the way it is today (or, at least, why it's so different from Chaucer to Shakespeare).

So, with war, there is also a culture exchange.  Wars are typically thought of in terms of fighting and not in terms of the ideas they bring from other areas - of course, with very good reasons.  Wars are fighting - horrible, bloody battles were people do die.  However, those veterans of those wars also bring back trinkets, things they've learned, as well as the effects on language.

So what does all of this have to do with Shepherd's Huts?  As I stated, I have good reason to believe they are a French invention.  From France, they spread to parts of Italy under French control as well as to England.  To explain further, here is a chart that gives the image or text of a shepherd's hut, where that image/text was believed to be created, and the year/s it is believed to be created in:

Shepherd's Hut
Tours, France1495
Tournai, Belgium1450-1475
Rome (?)1501-1550
Paris or Burgundy1413~1419
Rouen, France1500
Paris, France1480-1500
Paris, France1500
England or Scotland1596

Please feel free to click on the images - it should take you to the origin page of where I found the images. I also have many more images in my pinterest board on shepherd's huts in the SCA period. Almost all of the Shepherd's huts images (and text!) I've found are from one of three places: France, England, or French controlled areas. The earliest one I've discovered, to date, is the one from Egerton MS 1894 F.2v:

It's dated to the 3rd quarter of the 14th Century. Even though that makes sense with the clothing depicted in the manuscript, I still had to read the date three or four times. I even did the "14th C still means 1300's, right?" thing we all do at some point. :-) This makes it very interesting because it gives credence to one of my theories as to why the shepherd's hut pops on to the scene so suddenly and becomes so quickly associated with shepherds. My theory is that the Black Plague killed so many people off - particularly in France- that there was suddenly a lot of "un used" land to roam without a safe shelter (one not plague ridden or in disrepair in later years). So, shepherds decided the best way to deal with needing a place to rest while tending their flocks was to just be out there with the flock in their own travel trailer. I realize that might sound a bit silly but hear me out.

If there is one thing still taught correctly, it's that the black plague was devastating.  There is a very good article on the Black Death here which mentions half of Paris died and anywhere from 60 to 80% of France may have been killed by the plague.  Only 20% of England suffered the same fate - thank goodness for water borders!

With such a huge amount of the population gone in a very short time, there would suddenly be a lot of land no longer occupied.   This means more grazing territory but also means a huge labor shortage.  Peasants suddenly had choices and could get better offers for their labor elsewhere  With an increase in pay and larger grazing lands, what a better way to spend your new money than on an upgraded shelter that keeps you safe from the weather but also those annoyingly pesky sheep?  A shelter that you can take with you while you are out in the fields and away from any sort of civilization?

This is where I believe the shepherd's hut enters in.  If I find any depictions or mentions of the shepherd's hut before 1350, I'll have to come up with a new theory.  However, for now, the black death works as a reason for the sudden rise of the Shepherd's hut.

As for why I think it's a French invention; the plague hit France way harder than it did England, as I mention above. The labor shortage would have been greater there but also the amount of suddenly available grazing land. Also, in French illuminations and stained glass windows the "roulotte de berger" is almost always present from the 15th Century onward. Even a famous window at Yorkminster in England with a depiction of a Shepherd's Hut originated in France or Flanders in the early 16th Century.

I wrote to Yorkminister cathedral and asked. Also, when my parents went, I sent them on a hunt for the window. According to them, the tour guides never had so much fun. :-) They actually managed to find one of the resident experts on the stained glass to talk to and he was excited that, finally, one of the tourists was actually looking at the windows beyond the "those are pretty". So, if even one of the few items to survive through the War of the Roses, Henry's Reformation, and the Commonwealth period is French, plus around 90% of all depictions of a shepherd's hut I've found are either from France or French controlled areas, the shepherd's hut is probably a French invention.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.  I love talking about shepherd's huts and love sharing my knowledge of them.  Please feel free to pin or share this entry with others.  My hope is that this gets shared so widely, no one dares call a tiny house on wheels at an SCA event a vardo ever again.  :-)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Not Really Missing in Action

Before I get to the dress post, I wanted to explain why I haven't been posting this year.  Some of you already know but, I'm in Grad School.  It is eating up every last bit of free time I could possibly have.  I'm going for my Master's in Digital Forensics.  Hopefully, this time next year, I will be DONE.  

Second, it's Lent!   I'm doing the medieval Lenten thing again and have been eating a TON of olives, almonds, and rice.  I also have had a lot of salmon, various types of beans, and onions.  I'm mostly going with things I know that are quick to make because...grad school and work.

Third, the Francaise Dinner!   I made a new stomacher and petticoat for myself.  I didn't put trim on either because I just didn't have time.   I also finally finished my Mom' dress, which I'd like to share.

My sister in law is on the left in the green dress I made her last year. My Mom is on the right. I originally made this gown for her a few years ago but the shoulders were all wonky. I managed to take the shoulders, sleeves, and trim apart and correct the issue pretty easily. The sleeves just needed a gore to make those come out okay and the shoulders just needed to be let out a bit because I had a weird pintuck at the front. Once it was all done, Mom got to wear her pretty new dress, finally.

It's based on the dress above that Mom just fell in love with.  I didn't get to do the petticoat trim - not enough fabric- but I do think I got reasonably close to the inspiration image.  The extant gown is from the 1780's.  Mom wanted something with long sleeves and blue.  The above fit her qualifications.  :-)

I'll post my new stomacher and petticoat when I add trim to the stomacher. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Last Sewing Project of 2016!

I went to a FABULOUS New Year's Eve party this year and had a blast.   Because the theme of the party was Spies & Masquerade, I wanted a 1920's evening gown to wear.   For my gown, I used sequined black lace and irredentist silk dupioni.  The dress was very simple to make - I just used the same pattern as I used for my Christmas tea dress- and the dress was very fun to wear.


Callot Soeurs, 1929-1931 The Goldstein Museum of Design

I am absolutely in love with the dress above.  It still has that lovely 1920's dropped waist but look at how full that skirt is!   And the high - low that is oh so popular now?  Love!

Making the Dress:

I bought only 2 meters of 58" wide sequined black lace.   It was enough to do almost any 1920's dress, but not to do the skirt exactly as it is in the original dress.  Instead, I first cut out the top.  I then measured out the remaining yardage so I could cut the front panel for the skirt short in the front, but long at the sides.  For the back panel, I did the exact opposite.   The fabric was 58" so I just cut the fabric in half pretty much for the two panels.   I ended up with about 3 yards in the skirt.

The original dress appears to have a silver trim along the neckline.  I went with black velvet instead.   I used the black velvet to encase the edges around the neckline and arms.  This was mainly to prevent the fabric from unraveling over time.  It also adds just a nice detail to those areas.  

I didn't have to hem the skirt since I used the selvage for the hem.   The selvage of the lace had a lovely design.  

The underdress was a bit more of a problem.  I wanted something colorful for New Year's.   However, I also wanted something a bit heavy since it is...New Year's.  In DC.  It was sleeting when I went to get my Uber ride.  All my bright silks are pretty thin or were in colors that I already had made into 1920's dresses.  

I looked into using an older dress for underneath but I really needed something that would do the high low thing as well or, at least, matched the front length.   I ended up using my old Lord of the Rings dress that I made years ago and just re-cut it into something more 1920's than vaguely medieval.

I took part of the gown apart a very long time ago because ...it was terrible.  No, really.   It was a waste of perfectly good fabric.  The sleeves have been recycled into other projects and I think I still have the overdress upstairs somewhere - it should probably be made into something else- but I had this heavy silk dupioni tunic body that was pretty much begging to be used again.

I cut the top part off at the dropped waistline and then took the sides out.  I recut the sides and then cut the bottom half of the skirt so it would do the "high low" thing without me having to re-hem the entire thing.  

The fun part about doing all of this?  Seeing how crazy my sewing was 12 or so years ago when I made this outfit.   I had French seamed the tunic and used basting stitches through the entire thing.   I took out said French seams - which gave me a good inch of silk back- and just did normal zig zags this time.  

This is how the former Lord of the Rings underdress looks now.  It's still an underdress but it's much, much better in terms of fit and wearability.   The skirt isn't super full - there are just a couple of pleats on either side- but it's plenty for the underdress.  Plus, the color is beautiful with the black lace overlay.

See?  Much better!  

This is the picture I took right after I finished making it.   I'm really in love with this dress because it fits so well!

This was my attempt at taking a back picture of it, while wearing the dress, in the mirror after the party.   You can see Jasper the cat near the Christmas Tree.

I had a lot of fun at the party and will go again next year if I get the chance!   Happy New Year everyone!