Thursday, 13 April 2017

Easter Witch

Last year I wrote this on my private Facebook page, and since I made a broomstick last summer I've been planning to take pictures to match the text. Last Saturday I did.

"In parts of Sweden and Finland it's rumoured that on the 
Thursday before Easter - "Skärtorsdag" - the witches travel 
to Blåkulla to feast with the devil. That is of course rubbish, 
a story made up by Muggles to explain something they fear
 and don't understand. There are in fact lots of brooms in 
the air around Easter, as the annual (and mostly friendly) 
Quidditch match between Sweden and Finland takes place 
Easter weekend, a tradition going back to the late 1700's. 
One would hope that not too many brooms are spotted* though, 
what with the International Statue of Secrecy and all that..."

The post led to discussions on how it began as a national game (Finland had long been a part of Sweden by the late 18th century), and when Finland became Russian, the match was kept as a way to preserve friendliness despite the Muggle wars and politics. By now it's been going on for so long it's unthinkable to stop. Whether or not a certain 18th century Muggle war was the horrid result of arguments over World Cup tickets, or are nothing but slander, also came up.

My outfit was inspired by the way in which Swedish Easter withes (påskärringar) are often depicted, like lower class women from about the turn of the last century. Of course witches don't wear such styles today, but you know I like to dress up historically. I wore my insanely pieced dress, a quilted petticoat, knitted mitts and stockings, a headkerchief, an apron from my kitchen, and a piece of fabric for a small shawl. Besides the broom I also carried a copper coffee pot, often seen in images of Easter witches. One needs a refresher if the Quidditch game gets long, and April in the North is often cold.

*Especially important as Swedish Muggle Police said they'd be keeping a lookout for airborne nuisance and other nasty things this weekend. Just a head's up ;)

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Hankasärk II - A Swedish Folk Costume Shift

Some years ago I made a hankasärk, a sleeveless shift from the very South of Sweden, to wear with my folk costume. Now I’m working on a Ca 1810 everyday version of that folk costume for an event I hope to attend in a few weeks, and need a new hankasärk. The old one is a bit too loosely woven for my taste, and a smidge tight. In the beginning of March I made a new one, but I never got round to blogging about it until now.

I had the cover of an old mattress, probably used in the early/mid 20th century in a military or hospital setting. It was made from a very sturdy, handwoven linen, and though it was stained here and there and had a few unsightly mends, I thought I could get a hankasärk from it. The densely woven fabric, with nice selvedges, was too good to pass up.

I had a 1:10 scale pattern, taken from an extant hankasärk, that I used as a guide when making my first one, so I knew what the pattern pieces should look like, and I looked at pictures of extant hankasärkar to see what similarities and variations there were. I then decided on the measurements for mine, measured on the fabric, and cut to a thread. All the pieces are rectangles of various sizes: one for the front and back (there are no shoulder seams), one in each side, two narrow ones to form the waistband, and four to make up the skirt. In the originals there are usually three skirt panels, but my fabric was a bit narrower than the ones originally used, so I chose to use four to get a similar width in the finished garment.

The bodice part is made up with back stitches, with all seams neatly felled to one side. I then hemmed the sides, that would be arm openings. After doing this I discovered that I’d sewn one side inside out – oops. Several friends advised me to let it be; similar mistakes are seen in extant shifts. I pondered what to do while working on the skirt part, and then unpicked the armhole hem that was inside out, and stitched it again, to the right side this time. I left the side seams be though: they were discreet enough not to bug me. All seams and hems were made as narrow as the fabric would allow.

The skirt panels had neat selvedges, so to make maximum use of the width, I whip stitched them together. This made almost completely flat seams when pressed. As I have upcycled the material, there are holes from the previous seams, but hopefully they’ll mostly go away in the wash. 

The skirt is attached to the waistband with stroked gathers. They turned out a bit less tight than I’d wanted (I might be  bit wider than the original wearers, or I didn't do the gathers fine enough), but it’s acceptable. 

The waistband and bodice (with all edges, including the bottom, hemmed) were then joined by whip stitching.

I managed to avoid the worst stains when cutting out the hankasärk, but there are still a few fainter ones. I decided not to let them bother me though. There were also the few holes that had been mended by machine. Though reasonably well done, machine mending on a shift I intend to be from well before a proper sewing machine was invented just wouldn’t do. I unpicked the mending, and redid it by mending a larger hole with a patch, and two smaller ones by sewing/weaving linen thread over them. These flaws make the shift look well worn and cared for, something I don’t mind at all. There’s no fun in looking all sparkling new, like you wore a fancy costume instead of proper clothes, especially not in a lower class living history setting.

For all sewing I used linen thread that I strengthened with bees wax. For the monogram – common in large households in a time were all linens looked more or less the same – I used cotton embroidery floss. Most people in early 19th century Sweden used patronymic surnames, so the first letter stood for the person’s first name, the second for their father’s first name, and the third for son/daughter. It’s a practice still used in folk costumes. You can also see the seam that ended up wrong side out.

This will be my first entry in this years’ Historical Sew Monthly. It could have fit under February’s 'Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion'but obviously it was too late for that, so instead I’ll put it under April’s ’Circles, Squares and Rectangles’.

The Challenge: #4 Circles, Squares and Rectangles.

Material: Handwoven linen.

Pattern: Based off of period examples.

Year: Ca 1800-1850.

Notions: Linen thread, bee's wax, cotton floss.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty close in both material,construction and sewing.

Hours to complete: No idea.

First worn: Hopefully at an event in a few weeks.

Total cost: About 50 SEK (5,25 Euro, £4,49, $5,6), not counting the work.

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Red Riding Hood Winter Coat

Way back in 2009 I picked up a piece of cheery wine red wool at a good price in a fabric shop that was closing. I wanted to make a winter coat from it, but there wasn’t enough for what I had in mind. Soon afterwards I stumbled on a piece of wool in the same quality, but a shade or two darker, in a charity shop, at an even better price. This could work, and I quickly cut out some of the pieces for it. And then life happened. And happened again, and again. I would pick it up, do some work on it, and then it would creep back into the UFO pile.

When I got it out this summer, seven years and two children later, it didn’t fit very well. I had to do some hard thinking, and then, with the help of piecing and added panels, will it to do as I wanted it to. In the end, the finished result turned out all right, if not perfect. The style had changed a little since I cut out the first pieces, but overall for the better, I think. The coat itself is made from the lighter red wool, which also lines the hood and pelerine collar made from the darker red wool – the winters here are mostly wet and windy, and the cold goes straight through you. Extra layers of wool are a good thing. 
The coat is also piped here and there in the darker red wool. In the pictures, the contrast between the lighter and darker fabrics show best in the hood.

For the construction of the hood I took my inspiration from 18th century hoods, with the pleats radiating out in the back. Since mine was made from double layers of thick wool, the centre of the pleats wouldn’t quite close, so I covered a button in a scrap of wool and stitched it over the hole.

When it was time to line the pelerine collar, I didn’t have any piece of fabric large enough, so I ended up piecing it together from twelve smaller scraps. The facings in the front is also pieced together from four pieces each, and both the sleeves and the lining of the hood ended up being pieced from two pieces each. I wanted a long row of buttons down the front, and luckily I’d salvaged a dozen buttons from an old, worn-out coat I’d made, which would do quite well. I put two of them in the back, and the remaining ten down the front. Even the lining was reused from something else. All in all, the coat looks nice, maybe even expensive, but it’s all clever scrimping and recycling. Elegant economy, as they say in Cranford.

One morning about a week ago it was snowing, and of course I’d have to take the opportunity to get pictures of the coat. After all, a backdrop of snow is much prettier than a backdrop of mud and sad looking, beat down grass.

 Ever had to completely remodel a project after taking it from an extended time in the UFO pile? 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Miniature Row of False Books - Tutorial

Much as I prefer books with proper pages for miniatures, I saw someone’s hack on how to quickly make a row of leather bound fake ones from an old book. Realising that sometimes mass is desired, and every individual volume won’t actually be properly seen, I wanted to try it, but had the wrong kind of book. Instead I came up with a method that worked with the book I had at hand. I had planned to toss it for quite some time, but kept putting it off, as I thought the cover could be of some use - a good decision it turned out.

First, do not use a book of cultural or economic value. Just don’t, it’s a big no-no. Second, use a book with a leather spine or a complete leather cover.

Start with removing the pages. If the book spine is wide enough to make two rows of books, you can then cut it in half. If not, cut close to one side.

Trim the insides and draw the size of books you want. You don't want the top and bottom, so start a bit from the top and bottom edges. I decided I wanted my books to be a series, so I wanted them the same size. Carefully cut out the “books”. Ordinary household scissors might do, depending on how tough the cover is.

Wrap the former book spine round the side of your new “book” to make a cover, and glue in place. Trim if necessary.

 Play around with the books to see how you want to arrange them – individually or in groups, neat or untidy. If one cover happen to be particularly nice, and you plan to glue the books together, put that in front just in case it'll show.

I drew lines with gold pen on the spines of one group of books, but left the others plain, to make it less obvious that what turned into two groups of books were really made from the same material. I plan to eventually have my books sit properly in bookcases, so I glued them together neatly, one with a book leaning at one end for visual interest. 

For now though they are part of The Room of Hidden Things that I wrote about in my last post.

The Room of Hidden Things

Yesterday I quickly made a couple of rows of miniature fake books (tutorial here), and was keen to display them. The fact that my sister in law had given me a lovely little bell jar, just shy of 4" (10 cm), sans bird topper, for Christmas may have contributed.

I don’t yet have enough miniatures to make a sensible scene, so I collected bits and bobs, some that I’ve got and some that I’ve made, and put together a little attic room scene – or is it a corner of The Room of Hidden Things, one of the many guises of The Room of Requirement?

A rickety stool with a broken bird cage on it (a pendant on a necklace that I got on sale once with miniatures in mind), some outdated and forbidden books and odd pieces of parchment.

A copper pot and a basket, probably disposed off by house elves.

A wooden crate, a handwritten old scroll, more books and a goblet.

An old mirror and a cat – don’t know how that got in there, but I dare say there are enough mice for it not to starve. I hope it will escape the Fiendfyre....

I like how it came out, though both the crate and the stool are plain - as I don't know what permanent scene they'll end up in I'm not yet willing to commit to staining or painting them. I will likely add some more things to the group as well. Miniature scenes where there is always something new to notice are the most interesting ones after all.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Belated Glimpses of Christmas

Well, I had several posts planned before Christmas, but for some reason, the writing just wouldn’t come together. As I’m sitting here on day six with a chest cold (but no longer a fever), I might as well show you a few glimpses of how our Christmas decorations turned out, before I take them down again in a few days or so. I have liked them more than usual this year, and am not really at all keen to take them down, even though I put them up earlier than I generally do. 

First, our Christmas tree. Actually, it'll be mostly about the tree, as the pictures of the other stuff didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. It’s a fake tree that we got from IKEA a while back, and though I like the smell of a proper tree, at least this one looks very real, and having it has saved us a lot of money over the years. It’s a small tree, just over 5 feet (152 centimetres), and has a functional but dull plastic stand. This year I wanted a new look, so I put the tree in a copper tub I inherited from my grandparents, and it made a huge difference. Not only did it bring the tree up a bit – I put a couple of broken concrete slabs in the tub (the tub protected by a towel) partly for balance, and put the tree on top of them – but it also looked much prettier, and more real. I’m ridiculously happy with how it came out. Some might think it’s a bit on the sparse side, but this is how many real spruces look here, and makes it feel more realistic. All in all, it's a very Scandinavian tree.

I've made most of the ornaments myself, some a long time ago, but most I've made this - sorry, it's New Years Day now, last year - makes me wonder what we had in the tree before.... The year before last I tied lots of bows from strips of fabric I had in my stash. I didn't hem them or anything, and just lay them on the branches. Simple as can be, but adds a lot of character.

These button spruces are new. I was a bit unsure of them at first, but it turns out I like how they look on the tree. 

The little jingle bell ornaments are really cute, and not at all too small for our petite tree.

These little sacks were originally a bunting I got from my mum, but never quite knew how to decorate with. A year or two ago I cut the string of the bunting into pieces, and the now individual sacks make charming ornaments.

I had attached braided linen cord loops to some spruce cones for ornaments. Pine cones are prettier and sturdier to work with, but the spruce cones were easier to find as a big spruce grows by the playground, and anyway, these looked more natural on our imitation spruce tree.

The crocheted hemp twine stars looked nice.

As the tree is such a central part of the Christmas decorations, the one all eyes are drawn to, I make some of the ornaments remind us about Christ. Not that good food and presents aren’t nice (I love food and presents!), but they are not the most important part of the celebration for us. Almost ten years ago, I made tags (all the rage in the scrapbooking world back then) with snippets of English and Swedish Christmas songs or scriptures about Christ written on them. Every tag had a unique décor on it, and some I'll confess I’m no longer too happy with. I might retire them eventually, or use them differently, but for now, they have a place on our Christmas tree. 

These stars I also made this year, and I had a tutorial and free printable of the ten silhouettes depicting the Nativity story planned, but life happened. I might do a post about them later. These are probably my favourite ornaments on the tree this year.

I have some vintage keys, and as they are so pretty they make good ornaments, but they also remind me to let Christ into my life.

The boys had received a countdown candle, that helped them visualize how many days were left until Christmas. 

In mine and Tobias' bedroom I put a 14th century reproduction drinking pitcher, tied a ribbon round it and filled it with holly sprigs I'd picked. In a matching bowl I stored spare tea lights and matches.

Above the window I used more of the vines from our wedding (same as I used round the windows in the kitchen), trimmed with red bows, made from strips cut from a piece of fabric in my stash.

Home made sweets is tradition. This year we kept it simple and only made chocolate fudge and chocolate balls. The boys helped with the latter, much to their amusement.

Mum always used to make nicely decorated bread for Christmas, and that is a tradition I like to continue. I love holly, so a holly sprig seemed fitting. (On a side note - as I do like holly so much, I was very pleased when the Pottermore sorting announced that my wand was made from holly and unicorn tail hair.) Here is one of them, pre proofing. Mmmm, bread....

We had a very quiet, comfortable  Christmas - the kind I like best. How was your holidays?

A bit silly to have a look at the Christmas decorations in January, but there you are :) I wish you all a Happy New Year, filled with love, peace and creativity.