Thursday, September 20, 2018

A glut of projects

I'm realizing that the blogosphere is rapidly becoming obsolete in the face of social media like Instagram, but this is still a great place for me to keep an intermittent diary of what I've been doing, just to look back on in the future. So much has been happening lately! Since I don't think anyone else is reading this anymore and since I don't care about releasing stuff little by little in carefully curated, themed posts, here it goes! *backs up the dumptruck*

First up: The "St. Louis Georgians" Tea Party, at the Ritz-Carlton, and it was SUCH a delight. There were even photographers there -- the talented Janis Shetley owns some of the ones I am posting below.

(This is one of my absolute favorite photos ever taken of me and my husband...I was so grateful that Janis posed and snapped us here!)

 Much silliness mimicking Rowlandson's "Exhibition 'Stare' Case" satirical print!

 Man-clothes are not my thing at all, but I was pleased with how his suit looked, even if the fit wasn't great.

A couple of small and mundane projects were completed, like a new shift:

And progress on my little IKEA art doll who went from this:

To this, with the help of some sculpy "Quik Wood" for creating facial features, and an antique weft of hair:

She's starting to look really cute, and when I slow down on making clothes for myself (if ever) then I can build her a tiny wardrobe for show-and-tell at an event some time.

I also sewed a basic cotton English gown and am very pleased with it because it can go both lower-class or middlin' depending on accessories.

 This past weekend I wore it to a 'pirate-themed' day at the local Renaissance Festival, with a tricorn made of a placemat. I didn't get any good pictures there, was feeling quite under the weather after a migraine set in, but I took a few in the backyard later.

My bigger ongoing project has been transforming our guest room into an 18th-century-inspired sewing room/project backdrop. We have a tiny house, and if I don't go outside to take pictures, I had nowhere with a non-distracting backdrop to do it. So I painted over the leaf green (seen above in the blue cotton gown pictures) with a light grey, and have been slowly adding accessories, like this mirror on clearance from Walmart:

Which became absolutely beautiful when spray-painted gold!

A local swap-n-sell search yielded a tiny chandelier, and on Amazon I found many amazing ceiling medallions from which to choose, so I ordered this one for just $20!

Very pleased with the bit of fanciness it adds to the ceiling!

So after picking up and restoring an antique secretary and double-chairback settee, and finding a pretty rug on Overstock, I think it's starting to look really fun.  You can't see in this photo but over the bed against the wall is a small canopy box my husband built, and I'll be adding drapery coming down from it in the French day-bed style. I need to find a different spread for it as well. Next to hubby's coat on display here, there are double doors to a weird-shaped closet, but I started thinking about it and I can pick up more of that gorgeous millwork on Amazon, spraypaint it gold as well, and have my very own Versailles door to pose against. That's the next home project in the works. Eventually it would be nice to have a chair rail and faux paneling and crown molding in this room, but that can wait.

And lastly, I'm currently working on a cotton sacque. I won't try to claim this print is accurate, it's probably better suited to curtains or bed-hangings, but this is a trial-run for a MUCH more expensive and stunning Lee Jofa floral cotton that I'm scared to cut right now. So I'll work out the kinks with this gown first! It'll be self-trimmed with a compere stomacher.

Till next time, whenever that may be! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Side foray into Regency

It's been a busy last couple of months as I have been dipping my toe for the first time into Regency-wear. I have a LOT to learn yet about the subtleties of the different decades, but have been so pleased by how quickly and easy Regency gowns seem to go together after years of making 18th-century clothing.

For a little bit there I thought I was going with some friends to the Jane Austen Festival in Kentucky, but have a scheduling conflict that won't allow it this year. Nonetheless, next year hopefully I'll be prepared! In the meantime I'll have to enjoy everyone else's pretty pictures.

Some lovely striped silk had been languishing in my stash for years, bought from Cynthia of Redthreaded's Etsy shop a long time ago. It was too light and delicate for 18th-century wear but I think it made a lovely Regency evening-gown! I can't wait to wear it to a dance.

I also dyed some little pointed-toe flats from a hideous flourescent orange/coral to a rust-red, and sewed some trim on them -- if I hadn't been impatient I would have been smart and ordered some Petersham ribbon so as not to get the wrinkling around the curves of the shoe. May yet one day rip it all off and do it right. 

 Someday I plan to buy all my dream jewelry from At the Sign of the Grey Horse, In The Long Run Designs and Dames a la Mode, but alas, while I am on a fairly strict budget I'll have to make my own. Still, I was very pleased how this coral necklace (beads from Michaels) and collet necklace (beads from Etsy) turned out! They'll hold me until I can indulge in quality gorgeousness.

This past weekend was the annual summer Rendezvous at Fort de Chartres, and Saturday was disgustingly sticky as usual. Still, some of us from the newly-formed St. Louis Georgian Sewing Society (we're on Instagram and Facebook now!) found each other and had a sassy little hang-out. From left to right, Emily in her gorgeous new anglaise and fun hat, Kat in regional German attire, me as "comfortable" because I'm lazy at this event, and Kim in a fun floral and stripe combo. We looked awesome, especially considering the indifferent standards of this weird event (supposed to be 1720-1820 Nouvelle France, but mostly populated by half-naked 'mountain men,' teepees, and women in ugly chemises/Little House on the Prairie cabbage rose dresses. Ick).

You'd think that after hanging around in the heat all day I'd have slept really well that night when we got home. But no, the insomnia kicked in and while I frustratedly twiddled my thumbs a genius (?) idea came to me to whip up a bonnet, since I was contemplating wearing Regency the next day after suffering through the heat in 18th century stays. So I started with a hat from Dollar General that I'd never worn and probably never would:

I cut it about at the halfway mark where the lettering stopped. Bending the now-cut brim back, I got it to a point where I felt like it could look somewhat Regency, and sewed it there.  

If I had had more time, I would have covered the whole crown with lovely puffy fabric to hide the brim-manipulation, but by this point it was about 2am and I knew if I didn't put something on it and force myself to bed, I'd be too sleep-deprived to enjoy the next day of Rendezvous. So I threw some dotted veil at it and tacked some silk flowers on and called it a night, lol! In the borrowed and paraphrased words of Pride and Prejudice "I shall pull it to pieces and make something better" although I don't think it is "very ugly" like Lydia Bennet's bonnet.

I think it did the trick with my (also new) floral gown. It's more 1790s with the straight sleeves and pleated back (hopefully I'll get some good photos of that eventually, I did something similar to the Tidens Toj bridal gown) so some day I'll style it correctly with a turban, loose long curls, and a sash, rather than the bonnet and all my hair up. Regency is so comfortable on hot days....I am QUITE in love with it and will be very tempted to always go for it at this event.

That's it from me for now....more to come as I'm groaning my way through menswear so my husband has SOME sort of an 18th century suit to wear to the St. Louis Georgians Francaise Tea in August.  

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Robe a la Francaise That Took Forever

Somewhere way back in my blogging, I apprehensively started draping my first sacque. I'll readily admit that it's made from thrift store fabric that seems to be some sort of silk blend but because I'm not sure what, I can't claim it's an accurate fabric (and probably that's for the best considering some of the minor mistakes I made). The construction itself, however, was as accurate as I could make it, as it is entirely hand-sewn, and I spent a lot of time looking at museum extants and the sacques in Janet Arnold. 

I preferred to have this be a long organic process so that I could be thinking about why these gowns were constructed the way they were, while enjoying the hand-sewing. I wasn't counting on it being a THREE YEAR long process, but having unwisely started it before my wedding, and then adjusting to moving in with my husband and shuffling all our things around in a small house for a couple of years, it took me a while to finally get back to this large project to finish it! 

Last Saturday, with a newly formed group of costuming & reenacting friends, I was able to get out to the botanical gardens to take a few photos. Rain threatened for a good part of the late morning and those of us who stuck around to take our own photos got sprinkled on (so again, good thing this gown isn't 100% silk!). I made my poor friends take about a million pictures of the back of the gown, because obviously that's the best part of a robe a la francaise, right? On to the snapshots!

 The staff at the historic house in the middle of the gardens hunted up their cardboard cutout of the gardens' founder, Henry Shaw, and made us take a picture with him. We had a good spread of eras represented!

 The Shoe Shot. My pretty American Duchess Georgies with their Fleur buckles. They've taken a beating over the years but are still fairly comfortable!

 Lunch in the garden cafe! We were kind of celebrities all day...I had a random child thrust into my arms for a photo and we were stopped by tourists and photographers alike. 

 One of my favorite photos of the day. 

 Windy and wet and kind of romantic.

 These two photos below were taken by the talented Genevieve Nadeau, who is the daughter of one of the ladies in our group and who came along to photograph during the first half of the day. I'm eager to see the rest of her pictures but here's our lovely group shot and a cropped one below that.

 It was a delightful outing, weather notwithstanding (this has been the longest dreariest winter and spring is very slow to make progress), and the sacque now needs a careful bath, but after languishing in the unfinished pile for some time, I'm sure even it was glad to see some daylight!

Likely next week I'll be done with a gold striped silk Regency gown that I'm eager to show as well.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Projects of the past year

Bonjour, mes amis! 
I can't believe it's been over a year since I posted anything here. Not for lack of projects, but the interest in documenting them has just not been there. I've had my interest revitalized by a sewing group that has started up here in the St. Louis area, spearheaded by my new friend Christine (who has been uploading some really very superior projects and especially drool-worthy 18th-century embroidery done on some machines I've never seen the like of). I don't think she would mind me linking her site at and you should check it out if you're in need of inspiration....she has certainly un-stuck me!

Last summer, my husband and I went down to Fort de Chartres as usual, and I've been embracing the farm-wife persona (don't mind my bedgown sleeves looking so long -- they're supposed to be rolled up but I'm going to have to tack them down a bit). In the miserable heat it is nice to be able to forgo stays at an event once in a while. I've mentioned this before, but with the Fort being down in the American River Bottom, the humidity is like none other as it settles in the "bowl" created by the high bluffs on all sides and there is almost never any breeze. Summer events are hard to breathe through sometimes! I've been loving my wooden French "sabots," who would have thought that wood shoes could be even remotely comfortable? They're great for walking through wet grass, and easy to slip off and on when you're resting.


There are a number of garments made of "indienne" mentioned in inventories from the area surrounding the fort, so I enjoyed mixing some prints in colors that might have been common. Apparently I'm always ready for a drink...I don't think there are any photos where I'm not holding a cup, haha. 

I probably had my blue stays finished the last time I wrote and I don't know if I added a picture, but here's a quick photo of them right before finishing the binding. They're half-boned blue linen,  but since this picture was taken I had to convert them to front-lacing for ease of getting in and out. They're fairly comfortable but I think the next set I make will be strapless again. I'm just not fond of straps! And I need to remind myself to stop making square tabs...they're very ugly, haha.

Since our St. Louis group is for 18th and early 19th century, I am starting on some Regency projects. It's not something I've ever prioritized before, but being a huge Jane Austen book and film lover, I could see getting into the cute day-dresses, the spencers, the pretty little bonnets and reticules. So far I have a shift:

...a set of short stays (I don't need much support so I went for a very lightly boned single-gusset style)

and I finished a white apron-front basic gown that I don't have any good pictures of yet. I am pleased with how the back pleats turned out so I'll have to take some photos soon. My next project is supposed to be the striped gold and cream silk over-gown, but I found a flaw in the middle of the fabric that I worry will be difficult to work around! Might have to scrap that idea and get different fabric, sadly.

 And I will leave you with a little teaser of the project that has been eating up all my free time lately...but it deserves a post of its own, hopefully coming soon!