16 July 2015

White 18th Century Stockings

Although I have a perfectly serviceable pair of blue stockings, I really wanted a white pair to match the rest of my undergarments. I hated sewing the first pair, and I was happy to find that doing it a second time wasn't as painful. After bleaching it , I had enough cotton knit left over to make two white pairs. I have the second pair cut out and sitting in my stash, but no real reason to make them up any time soon.

18th century stockings with shoes

In the later half of the 1700's stockings became a little less gaudy and colourful, and I wanted some simple white on white embroidery. The embroidery floss I used wasn't quite white, but a slightly blueish white I picked up in a clearance sale. I like the subtle colour it adds, especially since the clocks are minimally decorated, but it doesn't show up in photos.

I did plan on doing a little monogram or some other embroidery at the top of the clock, similar to my other pair. I tried to do a monogram and it just wasn't working - I couldn't find the balance between simplicity for ease of stitching and a good design. I did a monogram on one clock but unpicked it...and managed to tear a hole in the fabric while I was at it. I patched it up with some white thread, and I don't think it's too noticable.

The cotton knit was much thinner than I remembered. I doubt the bleaching changed it, but the thinness is much more noticeable in this white pair than in the blue pair. If I ever need to make another pair i'd definitely look out for a thicker knit, I have a feeling it would be easier to embroider too.

After wearing my blue stockings for a while I noticed that the tops sagged quite badly. This could be a fitting issue, since there was a long gap between making the pattern and making the stockings, or something else. My garters do a great job of keeping them up, but the rest of the stocking ends up folded down over them. So for this pair I cheated and added some elastic to the top. It does the trick and stops them sagging and flapping around over my knees.

You might have noticed that the toe area doesn't fit quite as well as the blue pair. Usually i'd try them on, see where my toes end up and cut diagonally across from my big toe to my little toe to form the toe area. For this pair I guessed and just cut straight across. Although modern socks and stockings have a straight toe area, the amount of stretching they do means the toe area fits regardless. 18th century stockings are much more tailored, and rely on a precise fit to the wearers leg with a little bit of give. Let my example be a lesson - always measure and cut your toes!

Although plainer then I intended, i'm very happy with these stockings. They fit better than my last attempt, they're pretty, and they match the rest of my clothes (and my shoes!) much better. They were one hundred percent hand sewn too! If you want to make your own pair you can check out my construction post which details the fabric I used, the pattern I made and how I pieced them together.  

1 July 2015

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

I got nominated for my first blog award by the wonderful Susan (aka Lady Constance) at Threading Through Time. Definitely check her bog out for lots of Victorian sewing, close looks at extant garments and other wonderful terminology and history posts!

I'm not going to be passing this on to ten more blogs for a few reasons. I've seen most of the blogs on my reading list get this award already, and it does feel a little bit like a chain letter. However, I'm really flattered to have been nominated, and i'll be answering the questions given to me. I feel like it's a great chance to write about myself for once!

Which of your projects is the one that proved to you “I can do this!”?

Definitely my 1780's stays, although that seems like an obvious answer. Making them involved embroidery, working with wood, lots more hand sewing than i'd ever done, and lots of fiddly technical bits. They took a long, long time to make - from patterning a draft to the finished product was about five or six months. There was a lot of down time when I was frustrated with them or too busy, and they just sat unfinished in my study.

The finished stays are exactly what I imagined, and I definitely thought "Hey, maybe I can do this whole costuming malarkey" when I'd completed then. Although i'm dreading ever having to make another pair in the future, i'm really happy with how much I learnt while making them. 

If you could eat any one food, as much as you want, without getting too heavy or too thin or having any ill health effects at all, what would it be?

 Is it too obvious to answer pizza? I never have and never will be a food person; i'd be quite content to live off proper wood-fired, handmade pizza.   

Who do you most appreciate having in your life?

I'm not sure if there's just one thing I appreciate, but I think i'd say my access to opportunities. I'm lucky enough to have gotten a good education as a child, and i've had to opportunity to further my education in a field that I love. I have the opportunity to focus on my studies and my future. I've had opportunities to travel around the world and to experience other cultures. I have the opportunity to do things I love, like sewing. I really appreciate that I have had all these wonderful opportunities in my life so far, when so many people struggle to get things we take for granted.     

What is your favorite place, and why? It can be anywhere – in your own backyard or around the world. (“In my head” doesn’t count…and is a bit scary.)

This is a little bit of a cop out because it could technically count as 'in my head', but one of my favourite places is the city where I grew up in England. I was born and raised in Durham, a historic city in the North of England. I have these wonderful memories of endless summers spent playing the woods, in my garden, in old graveyards. I loved going to the ancient cathedral, seeing the castle, walking along the riverbanks.

I remember the ghost tales and legends around the city and the local countryside, they fired my imagination and many of the interests I have today. The ghostly drummer boy, the ruined abbey with a hidden passage to the cathedral, the terrifying Lambton Worm, the myriad of haunted houses and estates.

I'm sure if I was to go back to England and visit Durham i'd be sorely disappointed. All the historic buildings and sites are still there, but nothing can ever live up to childhood memories, you know?

If you could dress for only one historical period, assuming you had access to all the help you’d need, which one would it be, and why?

I'm sure my answer to this will have changed in ten years time, but the 18th century. Although I absolutely adored the late Tudor and Elizabethan periods as a child, it was the late 18th century that really inspired me.

I love the giant, poofy, frilly, be-ribboned, uber-feminine dresses of extravagance. I love the plain and simple styles of the lower classes and the chemise a la reines. I love the masculine and military inspired redingotes and riding habits. I love the changing silhouettes of the period, the magnificent panniers and the giant behinds. I love the colours and the patterns, from bright yellow to delicate florals. I really think there's something for everyone in 18th century fashion, and I can't see myself changing decades any time soon!

If you absolutely had to dye your hair (no choice about it) in something other than a natural color, what would that color be? Or would you just shave it all off and start hoarding wigs?

Although I do love my brunette hair, i'd dye it more if it wasn't so expensive and damaging. I'd love to have purple hair, in a nice deep and vibrant shade. I did briefly dye my hair purple, but without bleaching it. The result was a black-purple that faded to red, and stayed pretty red for the best part of a year.

Cutting all my hair off and just wearing wigs is tempting too!    

What is your favorite kind of hand needlework? Sewing, needlepoint, embroidery, cross stitch…?

As a child I loved cross stitch. I remember having to make a cross stitch pencil case in class, and I covered mine in tiny sheep and lambs frolicking in a field of flowers. As an adult cross stitch doesn't hold much appeal for me outside of subversive samplers.

Learning embroidery has been fun, although I get impatient and just want to see the finished piece. I'd have to say general hand sewing is my favourite. I love the look and feel of making perfect little stitches in the fabric, methodically creating my hem or seam. It's also much easier to divert your attention and watch a movie when you get into the rhythm of it.  

If your home was on fire and you only had time to save one pattern from your stash, which one would it be?

I'm not really attached to any of my patterns. I have a small collection of Vogue dresses and a few costume-y Simplicity ones, but I hardly use them and they could easily be replaced. Most of my historical patterns I draft myself or scale up from books I borrow - again, easy to reproduce. One day i'd love to have a collection of vintage patterns that I use to regularly make reproduction clothes (since I wear reproduction or actual vintage everyday), but until then i'd happily leave my patterns to burn!

Same question, but for fabric. Which single piece of fabric would you save? (And no, you can’t stay and go up in smoke with the stash. No “Fahrenheit 451″ options, OK?)

Okay, confession time - I don't have a stash. I'm not one to buy fabric because it's pretty or for some far off dream project, I try to have minimalist approach to the things I buy and my wardrobe. Also i'm a Poor Student™.

My current stash is leftover fabric from previous projects and a few metres of stuff I never got around to using. Any leftover fabric I like to make into pencil cases or tablet holders, and my other few fabric aren't anything to write home about. If I had to save one of them it would be a cotton print with cute little ghosts and tombstones on it, because gosh darn it's hard to find non-tacky Halloween prints.

What inspires you to continue creating and blogging when there are so many other things competing for your time every day?

Most of my life revolves around creating things. I love everything from sewing to 3D modelling, web design to painting, writing to makeup. I just really like making things, there's a satisfaction and a sense of pride in completing a project and learning a little but more about a certain craft. Outside of that there isn't much else competing for my time, just my own laziness!

Blogging about sewing is just one of the things I do with my time, but sooner or later i'll always come back around to it and find time to continue my latest costuming project. I couldn't really imagine sewing without blogging. There aren't any local events or groups where I can show off what I make, if I didn't blog about it i'd just have all these wonderful things sitting in my wardrobe unknown to everyone but me. I started this blog to give a little back to the community that inspired me, and the idea that I might inspire or encourage just one person to try and make something is why I keep blogging.

Edit: I've just realized I answered "what" instead of "who" for question three! I'll keep my original answer as I think it's more interesting.