Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Medieval Inspired Prettiness

Since I recently weaned Little One I can suddenly fit into dresses that didn’t fit in the bust area before. I managed to wriggle into the embroidered dark blue medieval-ish wool dress I made about 15 years ago (it even laced shut!), but never had nice pictures of myself wearing it. 

 I had also planned to have my hair cut, but first I wanted to take pictures of it long, so with these pictures I killed two birds with one stone.

I wore my hair in two long plaits, with ribbons braided into them, inspired by the 12th century fashion. I also wore a linen veil for the start of the photo shoot, but later ditched it, and in the end unbraided the hair too. 

The whole photo series have a rather Pre-Raphaelite medieval-ish feeling to it, which I confess I’m rather partial to, even though I’m usually all for historical accuracy. This is all about pretty, but I think that can sometimes be an object in itself. To accentuate the fairy tale feeling I edited the photos to be really vibrant.

 It is nice to finally have pretty pictures of myself in this lovely dress, but now I hope to sell it. It would look better on a slimmer figure, and I don’t really have any use for it.

And I did cut my hair that same afternoon; 40 cm (15 ¾”) was chopped off, so now it only reaches to below my shoulders. Much easier to care for, if harder to put up in fun hairstyles.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

A Blouse From an Old Dress

Way back when I was 16-17 years old or so (half my present age) I made a dress from a thrifted duvet cover in soft cotton. It was heavily inspired by medieval dresses, as I had a great love for them, and had not yet dared to take the leap into real living history. It wasn’t my best style – one goes through some weird stages as a teenager, trying to figure out who you are. 

Still, there were elements to this particular dress that I liked long after I’d stopped wearing poorly fitted medieval-ish dresses. I loved the colour, and rather liked the simple embroidery round neck and wrists. Even when I cut the dress up to use the material in other projects, I still saved the upper part, in some vague hope that I’d find a use for it. And yesterday, I did.

 I was going through my bins of scrap fabrics, when I stumbled on the long saved dress remnants. It was waaay to small over the bust (16 years and two kids can do that to you), but the sleeves fit decently. 

 I also found a piece of what was once the skirt part, and thought that if I inserted a gore into each side, I might be able to use it again. As I was planning to wear it under my sleeveless dresses, the gores would hardly be seen.

As it was so short I also thought that I’d take inspiration from dirndlblusen and make it a thing - less bulk at the waist, and might make nice nursing wear if ever I have another baby.

Said and done! During the afternoon and evening I inserted the gores (extending into the sleeve, so I wouldn’t have to redo the whole armscye), cut the bottom to shape (shorter in the back and long in the front to fit over the bust), and put an elastic into a casing at the bottom. 

The blouse is certainly not a masterpiece and falls firmly in the everyday wear category, but with very little work it gave new life to what was once a favourite, so all in all I’m pleased.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

A Simple 1920's Dress

I have never really liked the fashions of the 1920’s, having mostly seen the latter half of the decade, with its severe, skinny, almost masculine lines and boyish hair. Though some women make it look smashing, it’s not “me”. I like soft lines, traditionally feminine hair, and longer skirts. At the same time, I remember when I was given a low waisted dress as a girl, and feeling like the girls in Astrid Lindgren’s “Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn” (“The children of Noisy Village”), with all of the perceived romance of history, though of course I had no words for my feelings then.  But as we are invited to a 1920’s themed birthday party this summer, my imagination was caught. After looking at lots of fashion plates and photos of real women of the early 1920’s, I’ve come to appreciate that part of the decade. Not sure if the unfitted, low-waisted silhouette would work for me, but at the same time feeling it would most likely make a very comfortable dress for the days when my usual dresses with their tightly fitted bodices doesn’t feel tempting, I decided to make a very simple one, working both as a trial run and an everyday house dress.

Inspired by the dresses worn by the farm wives of Bullerbyn, I used a checked cotton fabric that my mum gave to me many years ago. I used the sketch by Jen Thompson as a starting point, but changed it to my measurements. I also made it all in one piece by removing the shoulder seams (inspired by several dresses in period photos), and made darts at the shoulders for a little bit of shaping. I made it front opening, and made the sleeves longer. 

I trimmed it with the dress fabric cut on the bias, and added pockets to the side seams, because having pockets is a good thing. The pockets are easily hidden in the pleats on the sides of the skirt

 The bias trim at the waistline continues as ties in the back, as I wanted something to take focus away from my too-big-for-the-1920’s behind. 

  Most of this project went smoothly, but for one thing. I was ready to start on the buttonholes late one night, but very wisely decided I was too tired to safely begin such a project. You can imagine I was a bit annoyed when I still managed to mess up the top buttonhole the next morning. After some thinking I managed to mend it tolerably well, but it’s still visible if you know what to look for. Ah well. The buttons were scavenged from an old, worn out cardigan.

 The whole dress was hand sewn, as my sewing machine is still out of order. I doubt we’ll have the funds to repair it this year, so The Greatness of Hand Sewing is the working theme for 2016.

I did not make a period appropriate brassiere at this time, but might do so in future, as it would greatly improve the look. Not that I look particularly wrong; there are plenty of pictures of ordinary 1920’s women with visible curves and a non-flattened bust. It would seem not everyone could afford or be bothered with being that fashionable.

Getting my hair in an acceptable style for the early 1920’s took lots of looking at period photos, some thinking and experimenting. My hair reaches past my tail bone at the moment, so it had to be one of the long-hair-posing-as-a-bob kind of styles. These are also abundant in period pictures, and noticing the similarities and differences was fun. I tried to comb the front of my hair really far down my forehead, but it would slip back again. Over all, I think it turned out all right, though I might need some styling product to make it stay longer than for a short photo shoot in my garden. The shoes was an old charity shop find, probably from the 1990’s, but a decent mimic of 1920’s styles.

  Having seen how it looks on me, I’ve decided that I sort of like the early 1920’s. Even though it’s so loose and completely unfitted, not something I usually find flattering on me, I did feel nice in this dress. There just might be more 1920’s for me in the future.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Cushion Covers for Spring

As spring was approaching I wanted new covers for the sofa cushions. With this in mind I had eyed an old apron that I made many years ago when just starting out making historical clothing, but has since been demoted to the fabric stash for not being period enough. It had a print of green checks on an off-white base, with flecks of beige giving it a "rustic" feeling. It just didn’t cut it as a 19th century apron, but I thought the green would work well for spring cushions. Said and done, I cut down the apron, stitched up the covers, and added three green buttons from stash for closure on each. That sorted the two larger cushions, but I had three smaller ones that needed new covers even more. 

 I raided my stash, and found a piece of cotton blend upholstery fabric that I was given a while back. There seem to have been a problem with the loom the day it was made, as the woven in flowers are rather ugly – I have another piece of that fabric, where the flowers look as they should, but I have other plans for that. I don’t mind; in this age of wastefulness it feels good to put all fabrics to use, even the imperfect ones. The colour worked well with the green check, picking up the off-white and beige.

  I made the covers with a deep overlapping in the back so they would look nice even without additional closure, as I didn’t feel like making more buttonholes. As I only had just enough fabric for the covers without the deep hems I wanted, I faced the openings with strips of beige check cotton fabric left over from lining the bodice of my insanely pieced dress a few years ago. Though it doesn’t really show, a detail like this makes me glad.

 The fabric had a few heavy dark stains that wouldn’t go away in the wash, and I didn’t have enough material to cut around them. As a solution I made a self-fabric appliquĂ© flower with an orphan button from stash as the centre. The placement is a bit odd, but it’s way better than the stains.

 So now our old sofa looks pleasantly light, airy and ready for spring, just in time for Easter. 

The beige theme continues, as I'm working on a checked white and sand coloured 1920-23-ish house dress. More on that later :)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

A Collection of Muggle Money

I was going through some boxes of stuff, putting some of the contents away, donating what could be liked by others, and tossing out the rubbish, when I came across some foreign coins that have been picked up when abroad. Not that my travels are extensive, but I’ve been to Scotland, and unsurprisingly all of the Nordic countries but Iceland. When looking over them I wondered what on Earth I should do with them – there was so little of every currency that exchanging them would cost more than the value of the money themselves, and we’re not likely to go abroad for a while. And then, while looking at the British coins and remembering how fascinated Ron Weasley was with the shape of the fifty pence, it hit me – why not make a small framed collection of Muggle money!

Said and done. I took out an open frame I’ve been meaning to give a makeover (it was a white shabby-chic thing), and painted it black. I covered a piece of thin cardboard taken from a corn flakes carton with a scrap of green velvet from my stash, and embroidered “Muggle Money” on it, through the cardboard and everything for stability. 

Then I played with the coins until they made a nice composition, and glued them into place. I finished with gluing the velvet covered cardboard to the back of the frame (not using too much glue, in case I want to give it another makeover in future), and that was that. 

It will make a nice addition to the decorations of my now traditional Harry Potter Halloween party. I'm sure Arthur Weasley would approve.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Molly's Corner - a Gift of Miniatures

Those of you who follow my Facebook page might remember that I wrote about my wish to make miniatures, but not thinking I had the time and space for it. Well, I found a loophole… My mum’s birthday was coming up, and she likes miniatures. She is also a Harry Potter fan, with a particular love of the Weasley’s home, the Burrow. Early one morning, when hovering between sleep and wakefulness, I was struck with the thought that I’d knit the beginning of a Weasley sweater in miniature, and maybe make a miniature book, a wand, a cup of tea….  It quickly snowballed from there, and two weeks later Molly’s Corner was a fact.

I had no budget at all for this project, but luckily a stash of materials for creative stuff of all kinds. I decided that the moment in time of this miniature would be set a few years after the Battle of Hogwarts, when all the children had left home, and most of them had married and some started families of their own.

In the end I made
- almost the entire front of a wool Weasley jumper, and some skeins of yarn
- a knitted wool blanket
- a pillow in crazy quilt patchwork technique
- a wooden wand
- a candle on a candlestick
- an inkwell with a quill
- a framed picture of Arthur and Molly Weasley from the films
- several books
- letters, both unopened and opened
- a shopping list
- a child’s drawing
- Witch Weekly Magazine
- a box with merchandise from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes
- a cup of tea

The jumper was knitted in thin two-ply wool, with a gauge of 9 stitches/cm (23 stitches/inch). Had I had longer needles to knit on that wouldn’t have been a problem – I like knitting on thin needles - but I only had embroidery needles, and being so short they made my hands cramp if I knitted for too long at a time. The knitting needles I transferred the stitches to is made from jewellery supplies. I made some additional balls and skeins of yarn to make it look more complete. As the knitting is small enough to carry it's own weight, it's quite easy to position it so that it looks like it's knitting on it's own.

The blanket was knitted in one-ply wool yarn on 1,5 mm knitting needles. It was loads of fun to do, even securing all the loose ends after casting off.

The crazy quilt pillow was stitched from small scraps of linen, cotton and raw silk fabrics. It was stuffed with a single layer of quilt batting.

The wand was made from a thin wood stick from my craft stash. I sanded it down, stained it brown and varnished it. It doesn’t look like Molly Weasley’s wand from the films, as I didn’t think to google it until I was finished, but I think it’s cute anyway.

The candle was made from the same stick as the wand. I made a small hole in one end, and after painting it, I glued a piece of waxed black quilting thread in it for a wick. The candlestick was made from the wick holder in an old tea light, that I bent into shape. Another time I think I would have liked to spray paint it a copper or brass colour.

The inkwell was made from two parts of different sized grommets and an orphaned part of an earring. I glued them together and splattered the would-be inkwell with black paint for ink. The quill was made from a small feather escaped from a pillow, that I used glue from a glue stick on to hold its shape. I then glued the quill to the inkwell.

The framed photo of Molly and Arthur is simple as can be: a picture from off the internet, sandwiched between two pieces of scrapbooking cardstock, the top one cut out to be the actual frame. It has a stand from the same cardstock.

For the books I used book covers that I downloaded from the internet - as there are so many I'll just post a list of links at the end of the post. Some had titles that are mentioned in the books, and on some of the blank ones I added titles of my own, like "Delicious Desserts with a flick of a wand" or "How to care for your owl". I then printed them out and glued them round small pieces of cardstock. The pages were made from paper that I’d dyed in tea, cut and stitched together. Depending on how I wanted the books to look (closed, partially opened or completely open) I stitched the pages in slightly different ways. The open books were given insides in patterned scrapbooking paper, but I didn’t bother with that on the closed books. The stitched pages were then glued to the covers, some of them with scribbled paper scraps, an entry form for The Daily Prophet’s yearly lottery, or a tasselled bookmarker (made from sewing thread) glued between the pages for visual interest. Most of the books were glued together into stacks, with various other stuff (letters, a child's drawing e.t.c.) between, under or on top of them.

There are two unopened letters made from the same tea dyed paper as the books, one showing the back with its seal, the other one addressed to Bill Weasley. The first letter was actually addressed to Molly herself, but I decided the back was also interesting to see. The letters are glued to a stack of books, or I’m afraid they’d quickly get lost. The opened letter is from Percy. It’s really just a short note to let his mum know that “we’re coming to dinner on Sunday”, and even though you can’t see it, glued between books as it is, I thought it was a nice touch to show him on good terms with his family.

The shopping list has a mix of very ordinary things like tea, flour and socks, and more exotic things like dried spiders and essence of dittany on it. I like that it's so long it can trail off the edge of a table, as parchments are often described as doing in the books.

The Witch Weekly cover was also taken from the internet, but I changed a few things: I gave the dress of the silhouette witch bell sleeves and made it longer – I imagine Witch Weekly is mostly read by adult, maybe even middle aged witches, not teenagers or young adults. A mini skirt looked rather silly in that context. I removed the date - I'm aiming for a few years into the 2000's here after all. I also changed some of the headlines – “fall fashions” just wouldn’t do on a British publication. As I couldn’t fit “autumn”, I just changed it to “spring”.  I made some other small changes as well – a bit pointless perhaps, as they don’t really show on such a tiny magazine, and part of it is hidden anyway, but it felt nice to make if fit my vision. Still, a thank you to the person who made the cover in the first place! I assembled the magazine in a similar fashion to the books, but simpler – I just glued the stitched together pages directly to the folded paper of the cover. I’m not sure Harry would have liked a heroic cover picture like that of himself, but he’s instantly recognizable, and it is rather fun to see him as an auror. 

Balancing on top of one of the book piles is a box from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, where Ron was working with George by this time. I always thought it was nice that they started working together, though I’m sure they both felt that it should have been Fred. I still haven’t got over his death, and having lost a sibling myself I know they – George especially - never did either.

I thought that Molly would like a big cup of hot tea when getting comfortable in her corner, so I made a cup and saucer from polymer clay I had left from years ago, when I made (rather ugly) miniature dolls. I painted it in green and orange shades, as my mum like those. I would have loved to fill it with resin water, but that wasn’t in my budget, so I tried to gradually fill it with craft varnish. It worked rather well I think, though not perfect. I gave the cup a spoon as well – self stirring for a bit of magic. The cup looks a bit chipped and worn, and the spoon handle is a bit battered as well - this is the Weasley family after all.

All these little things were put in a large matchbox that I'd covered and lined with scrapbooking paper, and decorated with a scrapbooking tag and some organza ribbon. 

So, how do I feel about making miniatures? I love it! I would obviously need lots of practice to become proficient, but I feel this is something I will do more of, when time allows. I’d also love to try and make miniature dolls again, and see if I can make prettier ones now. But first I have other things to do.  

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Medieval Winter

Last week we had cold and snow all over Sweden, even here in the south, where winter more often than not mean a damp and chilly wind that quickly seeps into your very bones in a way that dry, frozen cold don’t. It was perfect weather for taking pictures of your historical winter clothes, if you had them. I didn’t, but I never got good pictures of the green kyrtilI made for Tobias a few years ago. 

When he got dressed our four year old said he wanted clothes like that too when we went out. I hadn’t planned for that, not wanting to force my hobby on him more than necessary, but I’m not one to say no when he requests it himself. 

Wearing two wool kyrtils, a buttoned wool hood, woollen nalbound socks and mittens (really little brother’s socks) he was ready to face winter with his dad. 

 We don’t have all that much in the way of medieval looking nature where we live, so we had to make do with what little there is: a small copse and a corner of the playground.

Tobias commented that there were a lot of green in their clothes - and there is too much, really. The child’s kyrtil is made from the leftover fabric from his hose, and that his buttoned kyrtil is also green is just bad luck. He wore two kyrtils, a pair of hose with nalbound socks over them, a hood and a cap, all in wool. A belt, purse and shoes were the finishing touches.

It’s interesting how clothes you were very proud of when you made them looks a bit meh a few years later, when you’ve deepened your knowledge and raised your own standards. I’d really want to make Tobias a whole new wardrobe, but time and money is a factor as always, so it will have to happen little by little. None of it is bad; I just have higher demands on our stuff now, and likely will have again in a few years. It's the good and bad of this hobby.

 After a quick photoshoot and some sledding for the children, we went home. 

The snow is gone now, and today it almost feels like spring, even if that is still several weeks away. Hopefully we’ll be able to attend a weekend event or two this summer. We’d also love to go to the 25 year anniversary of Middelaldercentret, so fingers crossed that it works out!