Little Yard of Horrors

I have discovered another hobby to add to the already ridiculous list!  Hooray!

It’s gardening!  Veggie gardening, to be more specific.  If you know me in real life, you’ll be sitting there going well duh, it’s not like you’ve been talking about anything else besides your freaking garden for like the last month, but hey.  The good people of the interwebs haven’t had the chance to be overexposed to me jumping up and down, eyes maniacally gleaming, squealing “MY BABIES ARE FLOWERING!!!” yet.  My friend Death is an extremely skilled and creative gardener, and she got me into it and has been watching and helping and guiding me (and giggling at me from a safe distance), and I now see why just about every retiree/wanky eco-family/school with ANY non-tarmacky ground is really into it.  It’s ridiculously calming and enjoyable and nowhere near as complicated as I thought.

First we had a massive trip to Bunnings, testing both our Tetris skills and the structural integrity of Death’s car.

Then in the front yard, I used my new mattock to clear out all the manky grass, then dig down through the soil to churn it up until it became sort of fluffy and edible-looking.  The grass went in a pile on the veranda so that it would dry out and become all innocuous.  It sounds quick here, though in reality it took a whole afternoon mostly because I’m not the Hulk, but I did it nevertheless, and by the end of the afternoon I felt like I had the hang of how to use a mattock with relative efficiency.  I now feel confident that in the event of the zombie apocalypse, that mattock could get me a few extra minutes.  Then one of my housemates helped me carry the rotten old bookcase out the front that’s been mouldering out in the back yard for however many millions of years, and I just kicked the back out of it and used it as a raised bed.  The shelves got propped together to form another raised bed behind it.  Behold!

October garden

MY BABIES!!!  Back when they were babies… *tear*

November garden

On the top left are two types of potato, on the top right are five heirloom tomato varieties (tigerella, red dwarf fig, green zebra, lemon drop and mortgage lifter), and then at the front are snow peas and normal peas.  As the potatoes grow, you pile pea straw around them and they break it down into soil.  The higher you pile, the more potatoes you get.  Death likes to grow them in cheap laundry tubs from Kmart with a hole bashed in the bottom for drainage. Neat and productive!

The peas may look a little stunted in the second picture, which is mostly because while the snow peas chose to put their energy into growing tall with big leaves, the peas put theirs into, well, peas.  Like these:

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After.  Except then I ate those bits too. 

My tomatoes are also starting to fruit!  They’d probably be a bit more on their game if Melbourne could maintain a solid run of warm-ish weather (honestly, it’s two weeks away from summer and it’s been cold and rainy for the last two or three weeks)  Efforts to pollinate them with a paintbrush are somewhat hit and miss (maybe I need to put on some 70s music for them?  Handcuff them? Play them explicit videos of other tomato plants pollinating?)  But at least so far the green zebras and the lemon drops have started to get the message:

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The lemon drops will get a little bigger, but turn yellow.

Out the back there’s pretty much only one spot that’s not concreted and wasn’t already being used for something, so I pulled out the stubborn, unfriendly grass that lived there, tilled it up, added a little blood and bone (to the delight of the local cats) because the soil’s not as nice as it is out the front, and then planted some pumkins and  some curious plants that came courtesy of Death’s odd mother called ‘tree onions’, which apparently produce edible onion-like things at the top rather than under the ground.

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Wittle pumpkin-lings…

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And again only bigger now.

The tree onions have begun to develop buds at the top, which release these sort of tentacle things.  I have no idea what they’re doing…

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“Taking over the world, puny earthling!  Soon I will be invincible! Mwahahahahaha!!!”

Not turning into onions yet though, that’s for damn sure.  In the meantime, I have some herbs to content me also, which look faintly wanky yet fetching in their assortment of pots on chairs and whatever outside the door to the kitchen.  Tasty and convenient!  I have taken two photos with appropriate hipster-filters:

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Only it was all dark and rainy this arvo so the filter didn’t work so well.

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The photo from just after I planted was better for hipsterlicious instagrammy glory.

Ermergerd they’re on, like, chairs and stuff in like, non-matching pots. Does it count as wanky if it’s totally unintentional?  If I literally just used random old crap we had lying around because I couldn’t be bothered buying stuff?  And then took a photo with a silly filter for giggles and then realised OH GOD THIS LOOKS SO PRETENTIOUS.

But tasty.

And for the final twist in the tale, I chucked an old potato I found last time I cleaned out my kitchen cupboard (it had grown legs and possibly developed intelligence and was trying to escape) into a big pot with some compost.  Look what happened next:

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It’s aliiiiiiiiive! 

So That Construction, Eh?

I said I’d post about the construction of that robe a l’Anglaise later, and this is later, so here we go.  In case anyone else is crazy enough to muddle their way through one of these as a beginner, here is my experience doing just that, for better or worse, with all the links to things that I used.

I finished the stays first (well duh), in all their historically inaccurate glory.  The multicoloured thread is particularly great.  You can just see it here in this picture, where I’ve only lined half.  Luckily, extant stays are pretty messy on the inside too, so I don’t feel quite so bad.

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Messy, neat.

Basically, I drafted the pattern myself, flying very much by the seat of my pants and relying heavily on the stays-related posts from the Mantua Maker and the Dreamstress, because they’re professionals and know what they’re doing.  Mine are nowhere near as nice, but they are my first set and they do the job.  I decided on a 1780s-y ‘prow-front’ shape, made a toile and fiddled with it until it vaguely fit me.  Then I cut out the two layers of calico (because I’m a cheapskate), basted them together around the edges, sewed the channels with a backstitch, (gosh it sounds so quick here.  In reality it was like 6 months of jolly procrastination), then cut the cableties that were the bones to size (without hurting myself this time.   When I made the Green Soprano Gown back in February I managed to take a chunk out of that bit between the thumb and index finger cutting cableties with blunt scissors.  DON’T DO THAT.) and put them in the channels.  Then I whipstitched the seam allowances down and joined the pieces together with a whipstitch as is the done thing.  Then I covered them with brown linen and a spaced backstitch, cut the tabs, attached the shoulder straps and bound the edges with a bias binding that was sloppy as all hell because I suck at bias binding.  Possibly also because I did it while working Theatre box office shifts, having to sit out front for 2.45 hours doing nothing while they did the Tempest. I was dog tired.  Then I poked lacing holes (spaced for spiral lacing) with my dodgy-brothers awl (a really really sharp pencil followed by a size 5 metal knitting needle), and bound some very sloppy eyelets that look like wilty daisies.  Then I lined it.  Behold:

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Functional wilty daisies.

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But also vaguely attractive.  The maroon ribbon was a good choice, I feel.

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Here they are with and sans petticoat.  Dido hasn’t quite got as broad shoulders as I do, so the straps sit funny on her.  But on me they’re vaguely indecent, so Dido’s what you’re getting.

Stays done, and maximum uplift achieved, I could then pattern the robe.  There’s also another great post, again from the Mantua Maker, about draping and constructing robes a l’Anglaise which was EXTREMELY helpful.  It seemed like gibberish until I had the bits in front of me – much like pinching the laterals off tomato plants seemed unintelligible until I actually had tomato plants with laterals to pinch – and then it became crystal clear.  Basically, I put my stays on Dido and draped the pattern over her.  Sadly she’s…. just a little less squishy where it counts, let’s put it that way, so I made a toile first and then tried it on myself, and a little adjustment was necessary.   It’s a really efficient way of patterning though, because you don’t have to true the seam lengths or do any geometry, as fun as that is.  This was the pattern I ended up with:

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Complete with curved back seams. Hawt.

Then I cut out the fabric and lining (eek):

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Yes, I’m aware stripes are scarier, and I’m not the best at stripe matching.  I’m both an idiot and a sucker for a pretty stripe.

Then I basted the back panels together, wrong side to wrong side, seam allowances inwards, and sewed them together with a backstitch very close to the edges, leaving a little gap at top and bottom for turning in at the end.  I used some twill tape to make boning cases for the CB.  Then I did the same on the front, only sans twill tape.  I finished the front edge with point a rabbatre sous le main, and then I pinned the front and back to my stays (on myself) and worked out the placement of the side seams from there.  At this point I had a strange dream (well, strange for me.  Most of my dreams are incredibly violent and involve using machine guns or Buffy-style kickboxing to fight either zombies or Voldemort.  I kid you not.  For me, a bloodless dream qualifies as strange) that I went to New Zealand for a costuming workshop run by Leimomi from the Dreamstress, and got loads of help fitting the robe, so she’s now the Dreamstress quite literally.

I found these tutorials from the Fashionable Past immensely helpful too, even though I wasn’t making mine en fourreau.  She uses so many pictures and is so clear.  It’s impossible to miss the point, really.  I’m thinking if I’m crazy enough to attempt another of these, I’d make a jacket with an en fourreau back (I don’t even know if that’s really historically plausible, but hey.)

Then was the bit I was secretly excited about: the sleeves.  I’m not great at modern sleeves, but I feel like the 18th century version had more room for adjustment, so I was interested to see how it panned out.  I drafted a pattern, tried it on and adjusted it.  This is what I ended up with (and then I closed out the dart because it ended up laying flat that way anyhow):

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Sleevilicious.

And exactly as I anticipated, the 18th century method of sleeve setting in was easy, fun, quick, and generally awesome.  This post from American Duchess made it very clear.  Because Dido is as armless as a Greek statue, I did make sure to try them on pinned first, but there was relatively little wrestling required, and I even fluked some bonus stripe-matching.  Here is my catalogue of stripe-match flukes:

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Top-sleeve fluke-match.

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Two more flukes.

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Yet more sleeve flukes.

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Here’s some of the damage the robe took when I kept trying to reach glasses on the top shelf in the kitchen.  Stupid.

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This stripe-match was deliberate.

Also the last photo shows how I closed it with pins in the end.  I had hooks and eyes, but they were stupidly fiddly getting dressed, and after ten minutes of struggling I caved and broke out the straight pins.  Next time I’d do buttons maybe.  Or just pin it again.  Hell, here I go talking about next time again like it’s a thing.

Then I attached the skirt.  I know that’s meant to be the easy part, but I struggled.  Next time I’ll do it differently.  (Bad Belinda.  Stop talking about next time.  There is no next time.) I may even detach it and try again if I get massively bothered (no I won’t, what am I saying?)  It was a big rectangle. Why are rectangles hard and yet sleeves are easy? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  I am that crazy lady who can sing the Lied der Lulu standing on her head, yet would prefer to be disembowelled with a plastic spoon than sing Vedrai carino.

The petticoats were a different matter though.  Nice and simple.  There’s a tutorial from A Fashionable Frolick that had way more detail than I needed, not being any kind of re-enactor, but was also very straight-forward and made it a breeze.  I made two.  I was going to make three, but two seemed to cut the mustard, especially with the Alligator Bum underneath, and I didn’t have loads of time.  The under-petticoat was a plain cotton that had loads of body, and was hand-sewn, the outer was of a soft off-white silk twill and was machined because I ran out of time.  I also half-hand-sewed/half-machined a chemise, and didn’t bother to finish the neckline or hem (again because time).  Then I didn’t bother to roll a hem on my fichu either.  God I’m lazy.

So to summarise:

The corners I cut:

-I didn’t make pockets.  I used a small drawstring bag I made when I was like, 13 tied onto my petticoat waistband.  I started pockets but never finished them.

-I didn’t end up bothering with stockings.  It was 28 degrees, and I was wearing an anachronistic pair of red patent clogs.  Also, I found that my legs are so damn skinny that even with the garters tied below the knee as was the done thing, they fell down pretty much right away.  What did skinny girls do back then when this happened?  I’m curious.

-General lack of finishing/trims.  I will trim it someday.  I like it plain, but I feel it wants a row of pleated or ruched trim around the neck and sleeves.

-Various material inaccuracies.  The chemise is cotton, not linen.  Basically anywhere a linen thread would have been used, I used cotton because I’m cheap.   The waist sash is unknown content synthetic that was in my stash.  The structural layers of my stays are cotton calico rather than linen, and the ribbons are nylon rather than… whatever was used then. I’m pretty sure they didn’t use nylon.

-The mad machine rush to the finish line.

The things I would do differently:

-I’d try another method of attaching the skirt.  I found that really tough.

-No hooks and eyes.  They are the work of bealzebub.

-Shorter petties.  Like, walking length.  To show off my anachronistic clogs and keep them out of the damn way.

-The clumsiness of the tabs on my stays bugs me.  I want them more tooth-y and less deflated-balloon-y.

What I liked:

-Silk thread is great.  It’s like butter.

-Spaced backstitch is awesome.

-The period method of setting in sleeves is fabulous and I wish modern sleeves were as easy.

-Fishing around the blogs of awesome people for inspiration.  You are all magnificent and wonderful.  Particularly American Duchess, the Dreamstress, Before the Automobile, Temps d’élégance, The Fashionable Past, the Diary of a Mantua Maker, Dressed in Time, and Démodé.  I am always inspired by what you do and in utter awe.  Many a happy hour was spent procrastinating and not writing program notes for my recital.

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This is how it is now, on Dido.  God I need to piece a wedge onto the back of the skirt….

So I Finished a Heap of Stuff

Like a Masters degree.  Well, almost.   I finished classes, and now all I have to do is my final recital!

Also, I kind of finished my robe a l’Anglaise.  And two petticoats.  And my stays.  And a vegetable garden.  And the 24th year of my existence.

All round, it’s nice to finish things, so I can start other things (hooray!).

I also apologise, this is going to be a massive post.

But back to the finished things.  I don’t have oodles of photos of stuff on me, because I’m a strangely lazy individual – quite happy to spend weeks sewing various projects, but unwilling to bother with putting them on and photographing them.  Maybe I should do that now while it’s Sunday and the house is clean (as clean as it gets anyhoo) and there’s not a massive backlog of dirty clothes for washing.

So on that note, remember way back in the mists of time when I altered a dorky op-shopped Jigsaw skirt but never put up a photo of the finished product?

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Before.  Icky frump.  Like ecky-thump, only not cool.

Also, what’s a girl of my age doing making Goons jokes?

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After.  Much better.  The lace is too nice to hide with a black lining.

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Strategic arm placement to hide the seams, which in retrospect I should’ve done a little differently.

I love that skirt.  Never was $6 better spent at Savers, nor a better three hours spent driving myself batty altering something.   And the mystery-content synthetic I got from one of the little dodgy fabric places on Sydney Rd is perfect: doesn’t stick to the stockings, looks crisp and not too shiny.  Little dodgy fabric shops can be awesome.

Next, that bubble skirt I made way back in summer from some shiny green stuff I got at the UMSU Theatre garage sale.  The hem’s too deep, and it did something funny to it when ironed, but in general I like it.  None of the photos do the green justice.  It’s quite a deep rich hunter green.  Not dusty olive, not grey.  Speaking of, my legs aren’t actually that orange either.  Them be tights.  I tan like a redhead.

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Before.

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After.

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It’s considerably bubblier from the side. And there be my best surly model face.

Now I know what you all want to see.   That fabled robe a l’Anglaise that I’ve been banging on about for however long. Drumroll please:

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Hello sailor!  Where did those come from and why do I not have them all the time?

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About to pop the bubbly and whack the neighbours house with the cork.

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The Duchess feels that goggles compliment her coiffure a l’enfant perfectly.

I was going for a hedgehog hairdo, and got a coiffure a l’enfant instead because that’s how my hair rolls… er, curls.  Pretty much no matter how I do my hair, this is what it turns into within an hour or so.  What the heck is a hedgehog, I hear you say? Demode Couture has an excellent post that explains the hairstyles and cosmetic trends of the 18th Century, including the coiffure a l’enfant my hair ended up resembling most.  I swear it looked like a hedgehog in the morning.  I followed this tutorial by Lauren at American Duchess, only sans hair extension.

Anyway.  I’ll post about the construction and stuff at another point, because I just want to show off my clever friends and their costumes now.

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From left to right, we have Wolverine, my housemate the Clever Coffeemaker as a monk, another friend the Retro Economist in the best skort I have ever seen.

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And the Adorable Folkey as a mad scientist and one of my workmates the American Guy as a thief.

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The Sardonic Bassist as Audrey Hepburn, and Death as Little Red Riding Hood. 

Here is Brave Sir R. as himself at a concert… DSC_0146small

…and the Gorgeous Daredevil as a 1950’s babe.

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My lovely Baroque Flautist made her own suffragette outfit, and The Coat and his girlfriend came as a matching Doctor and Tardis, which was AWESOME!

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Finally the Quirky Composer came as an alternate reality version of the fourth incarnation of the Doctor.  And then she too found the goggles… oh those goggles…

Too Good at Voodoo

Firstly, I couldn’t resist filling a title with ‘oo’s.  Secondly, I’ve been pinning things to my dodgy dressform, which pretty much equates to voodoo: sticking pins in a large stuffed copy of myself.  I feel fine… apart from the shooting pains…  Perhaps I have some latent talent for the black arts.

Anyway.  I’ve got two things sort of on the go at the moment, one of which I can’t show you because it’s a birthday present for my sister.  She requested a hot water bottle with a cute animal-shaped cover (kitties being highly preferable), so I can tell you that much, and having trawled the interwebs and the cute stores and I couldn’t find anything. Well.  Nothing nice.  So I figured I’d study my leopard-shaped one and work out how they did it.  And hopefully optimise the design because while the leopard is mighty cute, he doesn’t quite fit over the bottle anymore.  So I’ve started patterning, and I’ve got some absolutely lustrous faux fur (Lisa Ho faux fur, no less!  This is gonna be one high-end kitty-hot-water-bottle) which I’ll bag out with a sturdy cotton lining.  The ones from Big W are completely made of crappy polyester, so I figure high-quality faux fur lined in cotton will be safe.  Safer, even.

???????????????????????????????I can’t resist one picture of that faux fur.  Mmmm, pettable.  

The other is a skirt.  I decided I need something different to wear in my recital seeing I’m spending half of it sitting down so I don’t look like some kind of evil soprano hulking like an overbearing heavy-breather over my hapless guitarist.  Also it’s June.  The chances of Melba Hall being comfortably heated are laughable, and most of my performance gear is either backless or not made of particularly insulating fibres.  So I’ll make a long-sleeved but fancily-draped merino top (eventually.  Hopefully)  and pair it with this skirt I’m making, which is going to be a big-ass thing that fancies itself as a Dior New Look late ’40s/early ’50s silhouette.  Which is going to be a damn sight comfier to sit in than a wiggle dress.

???????????????????????????????Here be the design sketch.

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Here be what I have so far.

I’ve only got the bare bones yet.  The foundation layer for the waistband, boned at the seams to stop it collapsing on itself, and one lining layer of very thin synthetic net stuff that my housemate the Adorable Folky gave me after she cleaned out her gran’s hoard of stuff.  There’s more of it.  Like, metres more.  So I can go nuts with the friffiness.  And once again my patterning is slightly too big, but this time it’s deliberate so that I won’t bust a zip with a big breath.   After years of trying to breathe properly, I finally got the hang of it, and now get accused of taking ‘Wagnerian’ breaths in Donizetti by my teacher.   I’m pretty sure it’s just a normal breath that looks big on me.

Then I pinned on my nice crispy new black silk to see how it’ll look when I cover it.

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Not bad…

Then I got massively distracted with pins.

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 Exhibit A: ‘So what if I save a metre and make a matching bodice…’

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Exhibit B: ‘So what if I buy 3m more and make an awesomer bodice…’

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Exhibit C: ‘What if I just get a heap more fabric and make a whole other dress…’

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Exhibit D: Ridiculously carried away by this point, envisaging asymmetrically-draped confections, requiring more yardage than I can afford…

And now I’m in a world of pain.  I should probably take those damn pins out.

Did I Say Soprano? I Meant Zombie.

Ah, weekends.  I remember when I used to have them.  Regular meals too.  Those were halcyon days…  And then I had that real clever idea that I wanted to be an opera singer.

I can handle the whole exhausting schedule thing, and I’m getting better at the whole work/uni/opera balance.  But then my wallet got stolen at work on Friday.  That really chucks a spanner in anyone’s works, but I still had to head off to a gig after and sing like nothing had happened, and get up the next morning to put in a 6 hour long production call.  Boy was I happy that the guy behind the counter at King and Godfree’s didn’t ask for ID when I hauled my zombified arse in there after production call to pick up wine (that I still haven’t drunk thank you very much.  But it’s nice to know it’s on standby). Well.  I guess that zombies don’t really need ID.  Surely alcohol works like a preservative once you’re dead?  Such has been the glory of my life recently.

Sewing-wise there’ve been bits and pieces, but no wonderful triumphant finished products.  I’d been steadily beavering away at sewing boning channels for my late 18th Century stays (and feeling jolly proud of myself) when I ran out of the pale aqua thread I was using.  Seeing I still haven’t decided whether I’ll cover them or not at the end, I didn’t want to risk changing colours in case I wanted to leave them uncovered.  Naturally, I haven’t had the time or the energy to scamper down to Lincraft to get more matching thread.  The couple of panels that I’ve finished make me so happy to look at though.  I’ve got the hang of the whole stitching-in-a-straight-line thing.

Behold!

Before:

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It’s not linear.  It’s more of a wibbly-wobbly-stitchy-witchy thing.

*unsubtle Doctor Who reference*

Whereas after…

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Look at them purdy straight lines!  Who says practice doesn’t make perfect?

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Bella, as always, likes to help.  These are a friend’s stays though, not mine.

Seeing the stay making had hit a brick wall, I decided to continue with my Bottega Veneta inspired summer dress (yeah, I know it’s heading in to winter.  I figure that far away deadlines leave less room for stress and/or disappointment.  That and it’s Melbourne.  I’m sure a freak heat-wave can be expected some time in August.).  I sewed the oodles of darts into the lining.  Why oh why would I draft my own pattern to be full of accursed darts?  Well I did.  And they turned out lovely (for a change).  I moved on to my delicious silk ikat, and then realised I’d just blunted my last fine silk needle.  There’s no way I’m risking a larger or blunt needle on this stuff.  It was disgustingly pricey.  Plus, what’s the point of making a high-end-designer-inspired frock if you’re going to cut corners? I already cut enough corners for three seamstresses.  More trips to Lincraft ahoy.

Sunday being my one and only day off, I decided not to go out.  But without going and picking up new machine needles and thread, I couldn’t progress on either the stays or the summer dress.  So I decided to start a third, smaller project instead.  Stockings.  Of the how-can-I-best-approximate-18th-Century-stockings-with-only-things-that-I-have-in-my-immediate-environment variety.  It was like Bear Grylls, only with sewing.  Though there was that episode where he found a dead seal and made a seal-blubber vest in order not to freeze to death in the sea…

I had a pair of lemon-yellow stockings that had seemed like a great idea when I bought them, but that I never wear, so I earmarked them for adventures into costume, seeing whenever I put them on I feel like I should maybe have a pink polonaise gown and a massive puffy chapeau to go with them.  (Speaking of, I think I’ve found the fabric I want to make my anglaise out of…  it’s a pale pink satin-weave cotton with a subtle floral embroidery.  Jumping the gun much?)

So I cut them off at well-above the knee height (figuring that once they were cut and hemmed they’d be shorter.  I was right, and I think I should have left even more length, stumpy legs notwithstanding), did a rolled hem, and planned some embroidery.  My adventures on the interwebs , mostly over at the Dreamstress, American Duchess and the Pragmatic Costumer, tell me that the stockings of the 18th Century were ‘clocked’, that is, beautifully embroidered at the ankles, like these lovelies:

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These are both from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now there’s one glaringly large difference between these beauties and my Jon Astons.  Mine are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay stretchier, being modern and mostly synthetic.  Now, back in the day, knit stockings did exist, but they weren’t anywhere as near as stretchy as modern stockings, and were still seamed and shaped like the ones from the Met.  This means that I’m not a hundred percent certain that it’s possible to embroider my stockings and have it work purely because of the enormous stretch factor.  But I’m going to give it my best shot.  My idea is to put the stocking over a big mug which will stretch it out while I’m sewing, and then hopefully they won’t rip when I put them on.

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The rolled hem.  I had to leave it pretty loose to allow for stretch factor, even for me.  I’m thinking a more sophisticated hemming system with more give would be required for someone with more curvaceous pins.

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A large Bach-print mug to stand in for my ankle.

My embroidery won’t be a patch on the examples from the Met, but I think a simple, fresh design will work better with the yellow anyway.

And what happened to the pants part of the pantyhose?  Well.  A medical friend of mine put this link up on the book of face recently, and as a person who goes through stockings at the rate hipsters go through coffees, I think it’s a marvellous idea and will start putting together a box:

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia

PANTYHOSE FOR AFRICA! We use the ‘panty’ part to keep post-operative pads in place and we cut the legs off and patients plait them into bath mats. If you would like to contribute, please post clean pantyhose (second hand is OK but they must be spotless!) to PO Box 5066 Turramurra NSW 2074 or drop them into the shop at 1396 Pacific Highway Turramurra. They must arrive no later than 13 May to go to the hospital as luggage. Such an easy way to help. Thank you!
Photo: PANTYHOSE FOR AFRICA! We use the 'panty' part to keep post-operative pads in place and we cut the legs off and patients plait them into bath mats. If you would like to contribute, please post clean pantyhose (second hand is OK but they must be spotless!) to PO Box 5066 Turramurra NSW 2074 or drop them into the shop at 1396 Pacific Highway Turramurra. They must arrive no later than 13 May to go to the hospital as luggage. Such an easy way to help. Thank you!

Robe a l’Anglaise Envy and Other Envies

Envy is probably my go-to sin.  Apart from posting on Good Friday.  That’s probably a sin too.

Anyway.  I have a roaring case of robe a l’Anglaise envy.  I’ve just had two days of a delightful virus (pretty much all of Lent crammed into two days of dizzy, nauseous, achey-painy starvation, with my Dad helpfully informing me on the phone that I wouldn’t actually starve to death for another six days.), so I fed my eyes instead with lots of piccies of robes a l’Anglaise.  I want an excuse and or occasion that is both solid enough to withstand Catholic guilt and yet doesn’t cause me to hyperventilate over a silly self-imposed deadline.  My handsewing is like a French bulldog: sturdy, but not fast or pretty. (Though having said that, I rather like French bulldogs.  They have cute scrunchy faces.)

Sizzle-reel time:

LACMA RalA 1785-90

Mmm…. stripy goodness…  Loving the crisp silk twill!  Feeling it wants a sash.

LACMA RalA 1785-90 back

Love the back point and the puffiliciousness… also the not-quite-perfect stripe-matching. It’s like some ancestor of mine was at work!

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Always always ALWAYS love a contrast petticoat!

All above images from LACMA.  SO GOOD.

I also particularly love American Duchess’s Revolution Dress.

I have a feeling this is going to be a terrible addiction.

Now, if I can justify stays I can sort of justify a robe, and I can justify stays because Mozart.  Mozart is the cornerstone of just about everybody’s repertoire, and most houses still like to go with period costume for Mozart (because people like it, so money), so I feel like it’s a safe bet that one day, somewhere, I will be singing Zerlina or Despina or Susanna or Blonde or the Countess or (fingers crossed!) Fiordiligi dressed a la late 18th Century (SQUEE), and so I would like to have my own comfy stays to sing in.  Having worn other people’s corsets before I can safely say that off-the-rack really doesn’t work out with my odd measurements in a comfy way, and I know that in the great cableties vs spring steel debate I prefer cableties.  Spring steel is great if you have some assets there to squish, but yeah.  Total lack of squishability.

I finished the toile last week, and, like everything else I’ve ever made, they are Mysteriously Too Big.  WHERE DOES THE EXTRA WIDTH APPEAR?  I took a good two inches off a tight bust measurement and a good inch and a half off the waist before I even patterned, and somehow they still manage to close easily and I can feel oodles of room in the damn things.  I followed all the rules!  I basted on the seam lines!  I whipped and butted them closed like a good seamstress (only messier)!  I need to curve the side seams more, but there’s so much to take off the bust that it’s going to mean some interesting adjustments.  I took a good 2cm out of the CB seam last night and it fixed the waist but not the bust. So I think this means taking it apart, adjusting everything and re-seaming.  Whoopee.  At least I didn’t run into armscye issues.  I never seem to have armscye issues. Thank the Lord.

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Stay toile ahoy.

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Arg stay toile fitteth not.  I know it looks like it does, but that’s just my ass going for contrast. 

Hopefully the acquisition of some kind of dressform will help with draping the robe.  I looked into it last year when my mother offered to get me one for my birthday, and found that, like everything else, they don’t exist in my size.  I could probably get a child’s one and pad the hips out, but it wouldn’t be long enough in the waist, which is one of my main fitting issues anyway, so purpose defeated.  I’m starting to think that if I sew up a very sturdy version of my tried-n-true princess seam block in upholstery fabric and stuffed it very tightly that it might approximate well enough?  Should be just like re-stuffing a chair.  I have some upholstery fabric lying around from the UMSU Theatre garage sale…  Maybe today.  I’m feeling I need it for my second load of envy:

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Here are my sketches.  Ignore the hand-shadow.

The Bottega Veneta dress envy.  Tucked in a secluded corner of this month’s Vogue is the inspiration for my Fabric Store silk-cotton ikat dress.  The colour and the detailing aren’t what got me (peach silk with what looks like the reflector tape on my cycling vest, only with studs…) but the cut is perfect.  It’s a good big picture, nice and uncluttered; just four of the models hanging out backstage and thankfully the one in my dress isn’t holding a bag and is towards the front so I can see the details of the dress.  Thanks, anonymous model!  So helpful! The print of my fabric will provide some visual interest to make up for the lack of studs and applied contrast… it’s the skirt patterning that’s bugging me though.  I think they’re crisp knife-pleats that’ve been tacked under the contrast strips, but how I pattern that sleek but relaxed shape for someone of my distinctly un-runway-model-like waist-to-hip ratio boggles my tiny soprano mind.  I’m not sure how to proceed.  Here’s my pattern so far, but the skirt is a bit too mega-flare:

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It’s like the ’70s.  Oh dear.