Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Infant of Prague

This statue of the Infant of Prague has been in my family for about 50 years.  My mother recently received it and everyone believed that the outfit the infant Jesus wore was beyond hope.  Mom let me take a stab at cleaning the poor dear.   As you can see, I managed to get those 50 years of tobacco stains out of the dress and cloak.  Woohoo!  Here's how.

I used baking soda, Tide, and room temperature water as a soak.   This is what the bathtub water looked like after only a minute long soak.

Scary, huh?   Notice that the blue cloak went from faded blue grey to a greenish blue from the tobacco acting as a yellow dye.  I quickly took the cloak out, rinsed it in the sink, and washed it separately from the dress and petticoat.   By wash, I mean scrub at the stains by rubbing the fabric together and using the Tide as the soap.  A bit of shampoo as well.  I also drained the tub and started again.  And again.  And...again.  In all, I had to wash the dress and petticoat in this rinse a good five times and the cloak took a beating at eight.   One bad stain on the cloak also took a bit of rubbing alcohol.  I wouldn't recommend that on natural fibers but it works fine on the acetate brocade.

Once the water looked more like a weak lemonade than the urine color (sorry, but there isn't another way to describe that!) you see above, I left the cloak, dress, and petticoat to soak overnight.   The next morning, I washed them all again and then rinsed out the garments to leave them to dry on the shower curtain rod.

The dress is in a bit of tatters but it at least is CLEAN now. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

HSF #8: UFO!

An 18th century Jacket out of period correct linen with silk bows.  (shh to those of you who know the entire story about the bows.  At least the ones in the photo are silk! :-) )

The back was inspired by this jacket at the V&A. There is also one in Williamsburg with a very similar tail.

So, the full story of this UFO is a LONG one.  It begins back in the 20th Century when I was learning to sew.   I had made one dress for Easter (out of oh so proper lining satin!) and I think *maybe* another 1950's inspired dress when I decided to go digging through Mom's stuff in the attic.  I found some lovely linen floral with swirlies that declared to be my next sundress.

Well, at this point in time I knew nothing about pattern sizing, mocking up, or really anything other than cut out pattern and follow the directions.  According to the pattern, I needed to cut out a size 14.  Therefore, that is exactly what I did.   I sewed it up, had really cute pink buttons down the front, and found that I had made myself a very lovely tent.

Being very new to the whole sewing thing, I figured it just needed to be taken in a bit.  And a bit more.  And maybe just a bit more.  In total, I tried to take the sundress in six times.   I gave up after that and it languished in the UFO pile for many, many years.  It's interesting to note that each time I took it in, I didn't cut off the excess.  This became important in the 21st century when I stumbled across it again - ten years later.

I took one look at the fabric and did an "OMG!!!!!11!!!" I realized how dumb I had been and that the fabric of the sundress was perfect for 18th century.  Although I no longer had enough to make a dress, I did have enough to make a jacket.  So, back in the pile it went with plans to, eventually, take out all the crazy stitches and use the pieces of the sundress to piece together a jacket.

Two years ago ( I think) I finally took it out and undid the sundress.  I just recall it taking forever.  But, eventually, all the pieces were again separate and I could make a jacket.   So I rolled the pieces back up and there they have sat until this week.  :-)

In the picture below, from left to right, front panel left, front panel right, back panel, front side panel.  There is also a back side panel (seriously, this thing was a tent) but I had that to the side since it was just right for the sleeves.  This picture shows the body pieces I draped in this post.

Here's the back side panel with the sleeve pattern I drafted in this post. Of course, I knew making something from an already made garment meant some piecing.  I had to piece the elbow flap of the sleeve - which is period. 
All I did was once I cut out the top part of the sleeve, I took the extra piece of fabric and placed it where the elbow flap was missing.  I overlapped the fabric slightly to give me a seam allowance. 
This is the fabric of the sleeve completely cut out.  You can barely tell in the photo where it will be pieced. 
Cutting out the lining next!   I just used scraps I had on hand.  The aqua is cotton and the white is linen. 
This is just the back and the sides of the body as I was sewing them to show the overall shape. 

The Challenge:#8 UFOs!
Fabric:Linen and cotton
Pattern:  My own!
Year:  1770's/1780's
Notions: Silk ribbon and thread
How historically accurate is it? 80%. I did machines stitch some of the inside seams but all the visible stitching is by hand except the button holes. The sundress had button holes and the original plan was to make this a button jacket. However, I thought it was too small (it wasn't) to make into a button front so I did machine button holes on the other side too and planned on tying it shut with ribbon. The jacket did fit correctly though . I ended up tying ribbons around one set of button holes and just crossing the front over and pinning it.
Hours to complete: Maybe 6?
First worn: Fort Fred! April 26, 2014
Total cost: $5 for the silk ribbons.

Draping an 18th Century Jacket

So, now you know I made a jacket for the Historical Fortnightly Sew UFO challenge. :-) However, explaining everything I did to get to a jacket would be very, very long for one blog spot. Due to this, I've split it up into three posts. Here's the previous post on how to draft a sleeve. This post is focusing on the body of the jacket. The pattern I end up with can easily be modified to be used for a robe a l'anglaise as well.

First, you need a piece of cheap fabric. I used about a yard or so of muslin and cut a hole slightly off center. You want more fabric to the back than the front so it will hang evenly on the dress dummy. As you can see below.

Also, any undergarments you will be wearing with the outfit you are draping needs to be on the dress dummy as well. In this case, my hideous stays. I made sure they closed on the dress dummy the way they do on me. :-) Important to make sure this outfit will fit me the same way it does the dress dummy!

The next thing I do is take two pins (you will need a lot of pins) and just put them a bit loosely right at the underarms. This is so I can see where I need to cut the armsyce first -this helps a lot with final visualization.

The arms do not need to be perfect at first, as you can see below. Just visible.

After cutting away the armsyce, I pin the sides loosely at the sides - just tight enough so I can see a humanish shape. 
Since I do not want the seams directly on the side, I've pinned the seam further back - where it will end up on the final pattern.
Once that's done, I started "pinching" the back where I want the seams to be for the 18th Century jacket.  This follows the general pattern lines for most late 18th Century jackets and dresses (think Janet Arnold).   I've also pinched the shoulders in this picture below.   I change it later on.  And yes, those are my scissors sticking out of the dress dummies neck.  You'll need them often and close at hand to cut off excess fabric.
The entire back is pinched the way I like it for the back panel piece.  It might look a bit uneven but that isn't a big deal - I only ever use one side for the pattern and throw the other side away.
Now to play with the front!  I've pinched the shoulder seam in this photo.  I've also started on the side panels and cut the neckline!

This is a much better photo of the side "pinching".  I also have cut a bit more of the armscye.  I tend to keep cutting it as I go since the fabric will continue to get tighter around that area.
For this photo, I've cut the neckline lower and shaped the left side of the jacket waist to where I want it.
What the final pinched back looks like.  I wanted to keep a "skirt" for the back of the jacket.  I've cut away all the excess fabric on the right side. 
This is what the fabric pieces looks like once I took them off the dress dummy.   I ended up cutting the skirt off for this project and making it a separate piece. 
Here's all the pieces placed together so you can see how the back, sides, and front work together as a flat pattern.  
I hope this was somewhat helpful!   Next, the actual UFO project!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Drafting a sleeve

I realized as I was working on documenting my HSF UFO project, that the write up is already getting long and I should probably break it out into parts.  I don't want to give away what I'm working on (other than it's 18th century!) so the drafting of the sleeve seems like a good part to piece out.  (Hehe, piece out...)

Anyway, to start on creating my own sleeve I always make a line dead in the center of the muslin.  From there, I measure out half my wrist measurement and my underarm measurement on either side of the line.  It ends up looking like the orange lines on this piece of muslin:
 The left is the "top" of the sleeve and the right, where the smaller line is, is the very bottom of the sleeve.  However, I need to do a "curvy" top for the sleeve - not a trapezoid- and I want the sleeve to only come below the elbow.  So, I do this:
 The two purple markings mark the measurement from my underarm to just below the elbow (10").  The top marking is made exactly 2" below the original orange line.  2" is roughly the difference between the measurement going from my underarm to just below my elbow (10") and the measurement going from where I'd like the top of the sleeve to hit on my shoulder going down to just below the inside of my elbow (~12"). 
 Using these new lines, I remark the top line out as a guiding line.   I also remark the bottom line, but at the just below the elbow measurement.  It's not in the above picture but you can see the purple line in the below photo.
 In green (I know, it's hard to see.  Sorry!), I've marked from the new top purple line to the new bottom purple line for the sides of the sleeve.  I've also drawn a rather bad bell curve across the top.   It's not that big a deal if it is bad, the point is to keep the line "low" about an inch or two in and then curve up to the original "top of the line" (orange in this case) at the dead center.   As long as one side looks okay, you just cut out the "good" side, fold the new pattern at the center line, and cut around the good side to get a symmetrical sleeve pattern like this:
 Now, this is a perfectly fine pattern in itself for any generic elbow length sleeve.   I use this style all the time for everything from Medieval right on up to modern sewing.  If you want it longer, just use the original wrist measurement and draw the side seam lines from the new purple line down to the edge of the old orange line.  That's it.  

But I don't want a generic elbow length sleeve.  I want a reasonable approximation of an 18th Century sleeve.  Most of the 18th Century sleeves that I was looking at have the top of the sleeve towards one side rather than in the middle as I do.  This means moving the underarm part of the sleeve to one side.  
 The (angry looking) pink line starts about halfway between the edge of the sleeve and the orange middle of the sleeve.   I'm following the green edge to create a simple new shape for the sleeve.  Once I've cut along the pink line, I move that piece over the other side, matching green lines together, like below:
 It's okay that it looks a bit angular here.  We'll fix that as we trace around this sleeve in aqua.  See?
 However, the sleeve still doesn't look quite right.  I need a deep underarm and, according the extant piece, the sleeve should have some sort of elbow flap.  So, in purple (ignore the yellow if you can see it) I kept the edges the same but made the underarm a but of a deeper curve.  I also added a small elbow flap.  The curve for the elbow flap is determined by where the center of the top of the sleeve is.  In this case, if you look at the top of the bell curve, you'll see a purple line.  This happened to be exactly 4 1/2" in from the edge of the sleeve.  I measured down from that line and made another purple mark.  This one is where I wanted the elbow flap to be at it's curviest.  
 Below is a comparison of the sleeve from Janet Arnold and the sleeve I drew.  The top of the sleeve in the book is much curvier but I don't like puffy sleeves on 18th C dresses/jackets/outfits so I kept mine much more shallow. 
Other than that, the pattern matches so now I have a reasonably period correct 18th century sleeve pattern to work with!  Feel free to ask questions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Evidence that TV can at least inspire you to try to do new things on your own

I grew up in a world where working on cars was meant to be done by professionals wearing overalls and holding dirty, oily rags in their back pockets.  This was because cars were complicated machinery that needed precise tools and training on how to use said tools.  Therefore, I didn't really bother to even attempt to ever do anything with a car because I didn't have the tools or the training to work on one.  Or the overalls.

However, I've been completely and totally addicted to the proper Top Gear (ie, the UK version).  For those that haven't seen the show, watch it.  I caught it totally by accident while I was sewing and found myself in laughing fits within a few minutes.  All three guys (the UK version of the three stooges, seriously) are able to show cars as something not scary, not mysterious, and not complicated.  They easily explain why one car is better than another, why things like horsepower and speed might actually be important in your car buying pursuits, and they also show that building or changing up a vehicle isn't brain surgery.    They do some pretty amazing and pretty ridiculous things to the vehicles they are given and explain what they've done.  It's not always err...good, but it is always amusing. 

Watching the show took the mystisim out of car mechanics for me.  They've shown it's just like any other craft project - you just need to figure out what you want to do and start.   Given I've tried almost every craft project out there (sewing, spinning, woodworking, sculpting, ect) and I've built things like desktop computers, after watching the show, it seemed silly to freak out over the horror stories I had heard about working on a car yourself.  (Like changing the oil and going right through the oil pan)

So, with that in mind, I made up my mind to actually fix my broken taillight myself.  Now when I say broken, I mean:

This is, of course, after I took it out.  What happened was I came out of Target to find the passenger taillight like this and a nice big new dent about top of your average shopping cart high right on the passenger side of my Ford Explorer.   No note.  Nothing around.  Just a very broken taillight and a new dent with some paint scraps.  

I wasn't worried about the dent or the paint - I'm not quite that vain about my truck- but I was worried about the taillight.  Originally, I was told it would be $1000+ to fix the truck.  Umm...no.   Instead, I opted for some see thru red tape that you can get at Auto Zone and put that over the broken part.  That worked for a few months but eventually the tape became unsticky.   Also, I want to take my truck through the car wash, darn it!

So, I shopped around and finally found a passenger taillight assembly for $85 total.  It was on Amazon so no shipping fees, yay!  Much better than the original $125 I found and far better than the $200 the shop told me was just for the light ($300 for labor, of course! The rest was for getting the dents out and paint).  It came yesterday but I was sick and really, truly, could not move more than from the sofa to the bed.

Today, thanks to the miracle that is hot tea, I'm feeling much better and figured I'd try and figure this taillight thing out.  After all, how hard could it be? So I went to the world wide web and looked up a few website to see how difficult this really was and exactly what I was getting myself into.  Turns out, it's stupid simple.  This was the video I used to figure out exactly what I was going to do. 

Basically, there are two screws that hold the taillight in place.  These screws are visible from the tailgate area.  You take those out.  You then wiggle the taillight out.  You twist and pop out the lights themselves and...you pop them into the new assembly, pop the new assembly back above the bumper, and screw it all back into place.  Seriously, I've had IKEA furniture that makes this look like a kindergartener's homework. 

Here are the super complicated (I need training!) tools I used:

The only reason I needed to use the flathead screwdriver was because I needed to wedge something small beneath the taillight in order to get the taillight assembly to line up with where the screws went into the truck frame.   It worked perfectly.

The one complication was that on the broken taillight, one of the metal stays that is meant to go into the plastic taillight and secure it to the truck frame had broken off completely:
You can see the top metal stay/screw in the near dead center upper part of the photo.  Where my fingers are pointing is where the other one should be.  Luckily, the new taillight assembly came with two new metal stays/screws so I didn't have to attempt to yank the one in the photo above or the one in the broken piece of plastic out.  Because that would not have been fun.

All and all, it took about ten minutes to pop out the old assembly and pop in the new one.  That includes me going back in the house to grab the flathead screwdriver because the holes would not aline properly.  Here's the new taillight on the truck:
So, yeah, the dent is still there.  However, I can now take the truck through the car wash without any worries.  Woohoo!  (And it didn't cost me $1000 to fix. ;-) )

And with that bombshell (a la Top Gear), Good Night!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter Dress!

I have it shown with my pink shurg I wore over it. It looked really cute together. The dress is my own design. I took one of the $4.95 saris I got at the thrift store a few weeks ago and some polished purple cotton from my stash to make the dress. The lining (the purple cotton) is fitted. I loved the idea of a handkerchief hem for the beach on Easter. Of course, it ended up being maybe 50F at the beach so I - as well as pretty much everyone else- froze.  We ran into the church and out of the church as quickly as possibly.  Even Dad turned up the heat in the truck because it was too cold.  :-)

Still, I'm rather happy with the dress.  The pattern has bust darts both at the underbust waistline and at the sides.  The original pattern I came up with (a wrap dress) looked horrible so this is the second version of this dress.   The sari bodice is gathered at the front.  I also used the sari border to make the waistline. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Last Day of Lent

Although I learned a lot of new recipes this year - like green sauce and fish pot pies- I'm excited that Lent is almost over.   Maudy Thursday - tomorrow- is considered sort of a feast day.  Good Friday, of course, is a fast day but I can eat cinnamon bread tomorrow!  Basically, today is the end of the Medieval Lent.  I'm not nearly as anxious for it to be over as last year and I think it's because I planned it out better this year.   I found new foods I like and will probably try through out the year.

Things I typically ate:
  • Salad.  Lots and lots of salad.  Spinach, lettuce, carrots, almonds, and croutons were my lunch for many days through out this.
  • Medieval trail mix.  This was a mix of almonds, walnuts, and raisins.   I read in several accounts about people snacking on a mix of nuts and raisins.  Since both almonds and walnuts are easily documentable, that's what I would have as a snack.   It's actually pretty good.
  • Bread with apple butter or strawberry jelly.   I may not have been able to have the peanut butter part of a PB&J, but I could have the rest.   That, and olives
  • Cod with Greensauce.   I think I had this at least once a week.  It really is pretty good.

What I ate when I traveled:
  • Shrimp bowls.   I know I had some sort of shrimp and chips or shrimp and rice or shrimp and something at least once every time I traveled.  I couldn't keep to the strict medieval diet when I was in NYC or elsewhere, but I could keep to the spirit of it.  (No animal products except fish)  
  • Apples and bananas.   Actually, every morning I'd get rice krispies, soy milk, a banana, and orange juice if I could find them.   A couple of times, the cafeteria at work didn't have rice krispies so it was tater tots with the banana and orange juice.  The apples were just to snack on later.


This is what I had for dinner tonight. It's the same Kidney Beans and Rice recipe I posted a few days ago. It really is quite good.

And now, back to sewing!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

HSF #7: Tops & Toes

The Challenge: Tops & Toes
Fabric: Leather
Pattern:None! The shoes were already shoes
Year:  late 16th century/early 17th century
Notions: Thread
How historically accurate is it? The shoes now have the correct cut and I did hand sew them so maybe 50~60%?
Hours to complete: 3 hours
First worn: As they currently are, I first wore them today around the house. :-) I plan on actually wearing them at Pennsic
Total cost: $9.95 for the sheos

This is what the shoes looked like before hand. My heel is apparently funny and a lot lower than they currently make shoes to be at. The back of most new shoes hits me right in the Achilles tendon and it hurts like crazy. So, I tend to wear mules or buy old shoes at the thrift store. This is one of the pairs of older shoes.
Side view.  I liked these because there was so little to cut away and change.  I originally got the idea to take a pair of modern shoes and turn them into 16th century shoes from an English Civil War group.  They took normal Oxfords and cut them up into a quasi mid 17th Century style. 
First, I took out all the side stitching.  I also took out the buckle.  This took a while.  
It's hard to tell in this photo, but after taking out all the stitching, I started to recut and reshape the shoe into a more late 16th century style.  This included cutting one of the lappets and making the tongue more narrow.
Wearing the shoes with my Hello Kitty socks!  I resewed the sides and around the lappets.  I also punched a couple of holes to tie the shoes properly.   :-D  Yay!  I got one of the HSFs done!!!

EDIT:  I probably should mention the story behind the mud on the shoes.   They were clean when I bought them.  However, I had to test them out if I'm going to wear these babies to Pennsic.  This means tromping through the woods behind my house, up and down the trails, with these shoes on.  It was muddy when I decided to do this.  However, the shoes survived - and survived well.  My feet didn't hurt in the least.   So, I cleaned them off as best as I could but there was still some mud around the shoes in the photos.   I do plan on getting some leather cleaner and leather paint to fix 'em up but they work as shoes for now.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kidney Beans and Rice is totally medieval!

From the Neapolitian Recipe Collection:
Kidney Beans. Cook the kidney beans in pure water or in good broth; when they are cooked, get finely sliced onions and fry them in a pan with good oil and put these fried onions on top [of the beans] along with pepper, cinnamon and saffron; then let this sit a while on the hot coals; dish it up with good spices on top.
I served this on top of rice (rice, water, salt, and a pinch of saffron).


1 Can of Kidney Beans
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 tablespoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 pinch of saffron
Olive Oil to fry the onion in

In one pot, cook the kidney beans in water. I drained the can, threw the beans in a pot, covered them with water, and let in boil for ten minutes. After that, I drained the water and put the beans in a bowl.

In a pan, I put just enough olive oil to fry up the onions. I only used half an onion, cut up. Once they started to brown, I added the pepper, cinnamon, and saffron. I then stirred it up, waited another minute and put these on top of the Kidney beans.

For dinner, I put the rice on a plate and then put the kidney beans & onions on top of that. Other than needing a little salt, it was really good!  I will definitely have this dish again. 

Sewing Evidence

It's not done, but this is my latest "work" dress.  I'll sew the buttons on tomorrow and iron the dress.   I messed up on it in several places - the back seam isn't right, the bodice facings were a nightmare, and the collar is a bit off.  However, the dress has pockets!  ;-)

EDIT:  I used McCall's Pattern M4769 for this dress.   I didn't have enough fabric to make the collar the same as the rest of the dress but I think the black collar looks okay.   Actually, I had so little of the print that I had to piece together the facings on the inside of the bodice.  On the inside of the skirt, I just used a strip of the black fabric.  The pockets are also out of the black fabric.  The print is sort of a Scandinavian looking print.  Dark gray background with black and gold designs. I got it at the thrift store for $4, I think.  I tried on the dress and it's a bit tight but I think that's because I tried it on over my purple knit dress.  :-)    (I don't know why it's showing up royal blue in the picture.  The knit dress -ie the sleeve edges- is a vivid purple.)

I made the skirt a bit wider at the hem than the pattern dictated.  The skirt looked too narrow to me otherwise.   I added 12 black buttons to the front of the dress and I think it will look really cute with a thin black belt when I find one.  :-)