Monday, 5 September 2016

In which I muse on curtains and growing up

I grew up in a home filled with handmade textiles. My mother made most of the soft furnishings, everything from blankets to tablecloths to embroidered guest hand towels. And that doesn't even cover the decorative things like tapestry cushions and Christmas tree ornaments. It was (and is) cozy in my mother's home, soft and warm and welcoming.

Inevitably, I started to do the same with my own home when I moved out. It's a very different style, to be sure, but I have handmade blankets on the bed and crocheted cushions on the sofa, along with lace snowflakes on the Christmas tree and samplers on the wall. "It's what grown-ups do," says the little voice in the back of my head.

The one thing I had never done was make my own curtains. That's Mom's thing. Actual curtains to keep in the warmth at night and sheers for privacy's sake during the day. I had never needed them, but the Spouse and I recently moved into a ground-floor flat that faces the road. It was a choice between making sheers or never opening the blinds.

Mom came through with a set of surplus sheers from her previous house that didn't fit her new windows, along with the leftover fabric in case I needed to make more. Good thing, too: the picture window in our bedroom took two curtains, so we were one short.

I had planned to leave the existing curtains as they were, but they were longer than the window openings and were driving me potty. So I spent the afternoon hemming the existing four and making one all by myself.

It's such a strange thing, really, but I had been terribly intimidated at the thought of making my own curtains. I don't know why - it's not like I've never hemmed interminable rectangles of fabric before. But somehow this was a much bigger deal than making garb or knitting socks. Maybe it was because Mom hasn't made any curtains since I left home, at least not that I've watched her make. All my memories of the process are from before I really started sewing properly.

I feel like I've levelled up or gotten bonus adulting points or something. Clearly it's time to have ice cream for supper.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

I don't even have a real excuse.

Life has been busy. Crazy busy. Running a ten-day SCA event for 150+ people on the other side of the country busy. I've been making stuff, but haven't really been up to posting much.

However, all this is behind me! The event is over! No-one died and the castle is still standing! I can make stuff again!

Things I am currently working on:

Yet another 16th-century shirt. This was one I bartered for some fencing armour and it's long overdue. Collar and cuffs embroidered, plain everything else.

A complete maintenance overhaul of all our garb and other bits. This is ongoing, but I've gotten a lot done, including darning some hose, reinforcing a bunch of seams, attaching trim, and regluing the soles of shoes. Most of what's left is finishing inside seams, but I have a pair of sleeves that need to be finished, too.

A crocheted Thing. Might be a shawl. Might be a blanket. I have no idea how big it's going to be when all the yarn has been used up, but it's mindless and good for my commute. (Oh yeah, I have a train commute now. We moved back in January.)

There are some major repairs pending on Spouse's wool coat after it got trapped in the suitcase wheels and dragged along the pavement earlier this year. Fortunately Mother Mine had leftovers of the fabric...

Saturday, 19 September 2015


That was the sound of July, August, and most of September whizzing past me. Sorry about that. Things have been pretty hectic in Fiendishland. Raglan happened at the beginning of August. It was fabulous and stressful - fabulous for seeing people and doing things, stressful because I was helping to run it and we had a food co-op this year. Anyway.

New Frock 1.0 was successfully finished, and I am rather happy with it.

There is a fair amount of tweaking and adjusting that needs to happen for New Frock 2.0, but this is a functional garment that is comfortable. Also visible here is the velvet sash I made to go with it. Could probably have done with a longer one, but I might have gone mad if I'd had to sew it for a moment longer.

For bonus points, the lacing rings as I was attaching them:

I also made an overdress to go with both this version and the silk one, once it's done. The overdress is reproduction 16th-century fabric, so a little later than the style of the dress, but I love it utterly.

The pattern on the fabric was perfectly centred, so I was able to use it as a cutting guideline. Consequently, it lines up really well.

Here's a picture of the combo, taken at Raglan by my friend Ian Walden. (Photo used with permission.) I still need sleeves, a partlet, and a proper cap, but I'm pretty happy with how it came out!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Suddenly, a necklace!

I went up to the sewing and bead shop this morning to buy supplies. Found black cord that will do nicely for lacing at 35p a metre, which was excellent. I also got the supplies to turn my brooch into a Florentine-style necklace.

I have no experience with making jewelry, nor do I have any intention of taking it up. This piece is intended to do until such time as I have the money to buy the real thing; consequently, I've done very little research into how to assemble it. It just needs to look right.

So. I inserted head pins through the pearl drops. (Plastic pearls, because the shop doesn't sell real pearls that were big enough.)

Then I started wrapping the head pin through the curlies of the brooch. I'd intended to use jump rings, but the ones I got were too small to fit around the bits of the brooch. This would have been easier if I could remember what I did with my needle-nose pliers, but hey, it worked.

The first one was a bugger to get into place because I left the pin on the back of the brooch. The other two were not nearly so fiddly. I used my trusty Warhammer clippers to trim the head pins off after they'd been attached.

I got enough of the cord to use for the necklace too, and I think it looks rather well!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

In honour of a wee small

We spent this weekend visiting Lord and Lady Coventry, two members of our SCA household. The main purpose of the visit was to meet their recently-born sprog, Nemo[1]. He is utterly adorable despite having thrown up on me twice.

I'd made him a hat before he hatched, but I had a partially-worked piece of embroidery I designed back in March when Terry Pratchett passed away. As Nemo's parents are huge Pratchett fans, and as the quotation in question seemed remarkably apt for the start of a new life, I decided to add the relevant details and call it a birth sampler. I think it came out rather well, personally.

Worked over two on 14-ct Aida cloth in some mysterious hemp embroidery floss. I ended up using it as it came from the hank rather than splitting it into strands. It seemed in keeping with the heavy fabric and juvenile style. Anyway, the parents seem to like it. At least, they bought a frame for it within an hour of me presenting them with it...

[1]Not his actual name.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Next steps

V. 1 of the dress isn't finished yet, but a lot more goes into the outfit than just the dress. Apart from figuring out how to style my hair I have a whole range of accessories I also need to make.

Florentine painter Portrait of a Lady Technique: tempera on panel Measurements: 69 x 46 cm Date or Period: c. 1500 Item used to belong to the following collections:    family von Ingenheim  I suspect this painting is earlier than the estimate, based on dated Florentine portraits in this style of clothing. Current whereabouts of painting unknown.


The biggest thing I still need to make is a pair of sleeves. The fabric looks like velvet to me so I've acquired a couple of yards of silk/rayon velvet. While the upper sleeve is clearly a solid tube (you can see the inside of one arm and the outside of the other), the lower sleeve is open like a gauntlet. This is rather convenient, since it appears to be in the same proportion on the model's arm as my archery bracer.

The tube of the upper sleeve appears to have a slight, angled sleeve cap rather than the rounded shape that would let it rest flush against the torso, and the bottom edge appears likewise angled (albeit more sharply). The angles could be an illusion caused by the puff of camicia protruding from underneath, but certainly at the bottom edge the camicia is clearly draping down and away from the upper sleeve.

What I am particularly uncertain of is whether I ought to line the sleeves. I'm inclined to think yes, simply to protect the edges of the velvet.


The narrow sash appears to be made of the same fabric as the sleeves. I'll cut the velvet the full length of the piece, which is 2m plus about 6 inches. (The seller cut it very generously!)


Our subject is wearing a sheer partlet that somehow fastens under the arms and miraculously stays put over the bosom. Tyger Friend theorizes that part of the weird stuff going on with the lacing is actually a brooch that holds the partlet in place. No idea how it fastens under the arms, nor what the shape of the back is. I have half a yard of gorgeous silk muslin that will be perfect for this once I figure out what the heck I need to do.


Another mystery. Boss Laurel and I have been debating this cap. I reckon lace; she reckons embroidery. It's moot for this round of sewing anyway, as I haven't time to make either before August and will just be making a plain cap. Of course I haven't a clue how I'll do that either.


I've decided that instead of trying to source a round pendant, I'm going to go with a red stone set in gold with pearl drops. This pendant style shows up in several paintings from late-fifteenth-century Florence.

Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni - Domenico Ghirlandaio | Museo Thyssen

I've found a brooch on Etsy that looks just right, and will be buying some pearls and wire on my next trip up to the sewing shop.


Eventually the plan is to make round tabletwoven silk cord for all the lacing, but in the meantime I'm probably going to use bought round cord. If there's time before August I'll make my own. If not, meh. I'll get there eventually.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


The outer shell/interlining layer is done!

Next step is sewing the lining into the shell.