Thursday, 2 October 2014

Making sweatpants the hard way

Sweatpants are a bit of an epitome of boring clothing, aren't they? Navy blue sweatpants. Not even a piping. Just in-seam pockets. Possibly the least imaginative item of clothing you could own.
(I did want to make piping, white, because yay, blue and white; but then I realised that despite my love for the colours and my love of piping, I actually don't like this particular look on other people, so I would be lying to myself about it. Plain navy it is.)
I'm making them because I do have the fabric (got it years ago in that stash haul) and I need new sweatpants (my old pair is really threadbare now, and I'm pretty much fed up with it because I may have had it for ten years or thereabouts already); there's a clear correlation between those two.
And I'm handsewing it.

Not the whole thing! That would take forever. But due to lack of variety in stretch stitches on my machine - the zig-zag turns out quite bulky - I'm handsewing the crotch seam allowances down; and the hems are done by hand, too.

The pattern is, of course, also derived from that one pattern that fits me. (I should settle the terminology, by the way; trousers it is now, when it's a respectable item, but then these are sweatpants - what's another name for this particular piece of clothing?) At that occasion, I've found out I can not find that original basis pattern. I know I took it out to digitalise into Inkscape; I did digitalise the front piece, did not get around to doing the back piece, and now I don't know where it is. *sigh* So I had to put this pattern together from the wide-legged Nancy pattern and a pattern I made for stretch fabrics some time ago but never actually used. I ended up altering the crotch area considerably. I'm not sure I'll be able to transfer those changes back to the pattern.

I think I still have enough of this knit left to make a sweatshirt. Possibly a hoodie, because in that same inexplicable manner, I've lost my orange hoodie.

But that can wait, because after I finish these, I think the most important thing to make are corduroy trousers. My current pairs are slowly but surely falling apart as well and the time of the year slowly but surely demands their wearing. Now that I have a pattern that fits, I feel much more confident about that endeavour than I did when I first acquired the corduroy.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Pivot points: Where was I when...

The Dreamstress started it. It's something I've thought of before: what historical events do I remember? How? (And why.)

If you feel compelled to share your memories, maybe you should do it at the original post. I'm writing this here, because it grew into blog post proportions in the telling.

* * *

Bandykullan, in her comment at The Dreamstess', is correct about remembering the aftermaths more than the event itself: my first memory of this kind is the separation of Czechoslovakia. I don't think I really remember the news, but I do remember being puzzled that my country was no longer ČSFR (Czechoslovak Federal Republic) and trying to get used to the name Czech Republic. It's connected to the name of a publishing house that published colourful children's books, like Disney books (those were also new and exciting for us at the time! although I was too young to have experienced life without them much). The name used to be Egmont ČSFR (it's actually a branch of an international company), so I was closely acquainted with it, and then suddenly it was no more (the publishing house changed to Egmont ČR eventually).
In retrospect, it was mostly a good thing, though, I think. Relations between the Czech Republic and Slovakia are, to the best of my knowledge, good, which may not have been the case by now have we stayed in one country. Maybe I was lucky to have only experienced Czechoslovakia for such a short time. I don't have much to be nostalgic about. I don't need to mourn the death of the country of my birth (even if technically it was the country of my birth). All I have is the good legacy: the abundance of good old books available in Slovak, the ease of understanding between the languages (to such an extent, in my case at least, that sometimes it would take me weeks to fully realise some people in my classes at university were Slovak), the ease of travelling to a foreign country (even if I've only taken advantage of it once so far).
Yesterday, me and my sister talked, among other things, about the urge some countries have to expand and retain their territory at all costs. We're lucky to live in a small country without such an unhealthy urge.

* * *

I do remember, vaguely (not in an "I was there when..." way), both the death of Princess Diana and the death of Mother Theresa that The Dreamstress mentions. I remember the media-and-society crazy over the former, and the more subdued but longer-lasting sadness surrounding the latter. I don't remember that it happened in such close succession - maybe exactly because the latter was more of the kind you come across and think of over a longer period of time, as the name is casually brought up in connection with other issues.

* * *

The "I was there when" way is strongly connected to 9/11 for me - because I wasn't there.
At the time, there was a practice in a certain class at my school of having a short presentation on current events each week. (I hated it. I've never been one for closely following the news, surmising that most of it was useless in long term.) I was the first, alphabetically, so I was the first to have the presentation the second week of September (school starts at the beginning of September here). And that day, the day before my presentation, in the afternoon / early evening here, when it happened, I was at a basketball training. I came home and found father listening to the radio. He told me what had happened. We've never had TV, so all I had was what father told me and what more came on the radio. First thing in the morning next day at school, I had to stand in front of a class full of people who've seen it on TV, and talk about a terrible event I knew less about than anyone else (or so I thought at the time). It was all kinds of horrible rolled into one for a young schoolgirl.
And there was, once again, the aftermath. A lot of aftermath. The whole terrorist scare. I can't tell if it was more grounded than usual or not, but it was most certainly something new and horrible in this country - I've lived in a free, unafraid country most of my life, and suddenly, being a NATO member, we were dragged into something that did not have much to do with us. So it was my first taste of global events.
And there was suddenly an Arab / Muslim scare, a whole new sort of mindless impersonal racism (not many Muslims in this country at the time, certainly not in my hometown), which lasted much longer, which I saw in my classmates, too, and which I was scared by. The Dreamstress mentions not being too keen on brimstone as a Baha'i. My brand of Christianity isn't too keen on brimstone, either, and it's very keen on thinking things through. So of course I knew right away that not every Muslim was a terrorist, just like I'd spent my school years explaining to my classmates that not all Christians answered to the Pope or that no, me being Christian doesn't mean I want to enter a convent (seriously, the idea was so ingrained that for a while I had to convince myself it was not the case!).
It's all died down. Sort of. We're back to being a country where an explosion in the centre of Prague makes people think of gas leaks. Where I can carry a pocket knife in my pencase and people's reaction is to ask if I'm a Girl Scout (for the record, I'm not). In many other ways, the situation and mindset here is not ideal; but it's the sort of thing you know you love about your country if you've lost it for a while.

* * *

I have lived through the Velvet Revolution. And reportedly, my family, including me, saw the Northern Lights on November 17.
The story goes like this: Father went to Prague that day on some errand, and mother heard about the demonstrations on the radio and was of course very worried. Father came home in the evening, wide-eyed, and said: "Guess what I've seen!" Mother said: "Revolution." Father said: "The Northern Lights!" And they packed us all into a cart, wrapping us in warm clothing, and took us to a hill above the town and we watched the Northern Lights.
There's a little detail in the story that I wonder about. Did Mother really say "Revolution" on November 17? Was it because the Communists spoke of Revolution (theirs) and contra-Revolution (everyone else's) that the word Revolution came so easily? Did many people really feel something was changing right then, just like it's also shown in Kolya? Or is it a detail added in the retelling?
I was too small to remember anything, which irks me to this day. Not the Revolution. Having seen the Northern Lights and not remembering it. To top it off, it seems no one else had seen them, because everyone else was concerned with something else that day; so it's like it never happened. Were there really Northern Lights to be seen in Czechoslovakia on November 17 1989?
But then, it's also what I love about the story. It's a family legend about the Velvet Revolution, and in that way, it's perfect.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Loki-coloured necklace

Some colours just look good together, okay? And I had these black and green glass beads. And these brass-coloured ones (that I suspect are actually glass, too).

And one single orphaned pearly bead.

The colours just work, and I had these beads that needed to be used up.

I was also inspired by some necklaces I've seen online - I had a mental image of a more masculline-y type of necklace, what with the black. It turns out the mental image was for a "twelve step necklace". Huh.

Whatever. I used that orphaned bead in a dignified manner and I now have a necklace to balance out my jewellery hanger. The bluish and silvery side started overpowering the warm-coloured side. That, frankly, was to be expected.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

1848 Jacket Sewalong: The braiding pattern

I keep forgetting to post this.

Here's a link to the braiding pattern - the soutache, and the "frog closures". It's one page in PDF that should give you a braiding pattern to fit into a 4 cm border at 100%.

The soutache pattern, I admit, is slightly different from what's on the jacket, where it's more... rounded. This is what I worked out in Inkscape, while trying to fit it into the 4 cm border with a 3 mm wide line - to accommodate my soutache. I guess the original braid was narrower. (The line in the final pattern is narrower, too, but I had to try it out with the 3 mm, to make sure it does not overlap or anything.)
It's the front centre corner of the jacket (turned 90 degrees). In the rest of the jacket, the pattern just continues. I haven't tried deciphering the sleeve pattern from the photos; that would take forever and I don't want to duplicate it anyway.

The closure is so complicated, the resizing from the tiny picture in the book - especially because it's imprecise there - took me some time... I still haven't really figured that pattern out. Maybe I'll cowardly back out from that to something less complicated...

Friday, 1 August 2014

HSF #13: Under $10 - 1930s-40s-style trousers

Remember my almost favourite trousers?
I've wanted a new pair of wide-legged white summer trousers for quite a while now. Over time, it evolved into a pair of 1930s-40s-style wide-legged trousers. I looked at pictures, I looked at vintage patterns online, I compiled a Pinterest board for active wear / outdoors wear / hiking wear / whatever of the era, inspired by Swallows and Amazons (I love Arthur Ransome's books, as my Literary Heroine Party questionnaires attest to). After all that, I was on the lookout for white cotton twill to make my trousers. Sounds like a basic enough fabric, right?

A basic, classic look, right?

Well, that was probably the problem: the shops I visited were full of colourful prints and low on very basic fabric. And I didn't always have the money to spend on fabric, so I could not be on the lookout all the time. In the end, I found exactly the fabric I wanted this January, with my Christmas money. And it was in the remnant bin, so it was marked down. All great, and I bought it; the problem was, there was only about 1,2 m of it, so I wasn't at all sure it would be enough for my wide-legged trousers.

At the beginning of July, I finally mentally crossed my fingers and cut into it. I just so-so squeezed the trousers out of it, with the help of
a) the fact that I have short legs, so 1,2 m was long enough for both legs and waistband,
b) inside waistband of a different material,
and c) some creative seam allowances (and this is one of the two huge reasons why I love the continental Europe practice of patterns with no seam allowances and going by the sewing stitching line, thank you very much).

 See? Some very creative seam allowances there.

Oh, and d) forget about those folded-up cutting diagrams. Such a waste of fabric. I never use that sort of layout, I just make sure I have the grain right and cut wherever I can squeeze it.
It did help that I was going for the vintage style with a lapped zipper on the side: a fly would take more fabric. Somehow, I even managed to squeeze the visible part of the slant pockets and the belt loops out of it. And I still have some small scraps... well, more like tiny. (Probably not even enough for doll trousers. I'll probably still try. :D)

The pattern is based on the one taken from those trousers I found at home. I made the back darts a bit bigger in the process. I also altered the front crotch a tiny bit (the original is very L-shaped, I made the curve more gradual because it always felt a bit off). Made a waistband, of course. And following the example of the vintage patterns I've looked at, the legs are not tapered at all, just cut straight down from the crotch/hips.

It results in a bit of a baggy look, but that, I believe, is quite correct for the era.
As you can see on this photo, though, I may still have to line the top part - the navy stripes of my T-shirt and my pantyline (ugh!) are showing through.

The fabric got a bit off-grain in the wash, so the trousers are cut a bit off-grain, too. Here's hoping it won't play havoc on them over time.

As mentioned previously, there's a lapped zipper on the side - handpicked. Then there's hooks and thread bars in the waistband. The hem allowance is handstitched, too. Otherwise, it's straight stitch (+ flat-felled inseam), zig-zag and some pinked seam allowances (at the pockets and in the waistband).

I also made use of the selvedges wherever I could.

The most important thing, of course, is the fact that I finally have nice casual trousers I can squat in and do stuff in without exposing my back.

Okay, they're white, so it's probably not a good idea to do all kinds of stuff in them. But the point is, I have a pattern that works.

In the end, styled with a striped T-shirt and the matching Miss Barbora hat, in emulation of the beachwear of the time, it's definitely more Miss Barbora than Swallows and Amazons. I plan on using the same pattern to make shorts for the Outdoors challenge, though, and that will fill that Ransome doing-all-kinds-of-stuff slot. :-)
Thus the "Pattern - Nancy" tag.

Just the facts, ma'am:

The Challenge: #13 Under $10
Fabric: cca 1,20 m of a white cotton twill remnant + a piece of an old tan cotton twill pinafore for the inside waistband. Oh, and I forgot about the old bedsheet for the pockets...
Pattern: my own, adapted from a pair I own
Year: cca 1930s-1940s
Notions: white cotton thread, metal zipper, hooks (+ thread bars, because I did not have enough overlap in the waistband for an eye)
How historically accurate is it? I think about 80-90%? I based the style on vintage pattern pictures, tried to only use techniques that would have been used then (straight stitch, zig-zag, some pinked seam allowances, some handsewing). But the slant pockets, placement/number of darts and details like that may not be quite accurate.
Hours to complete: I lost count; like usual, it took longer than I had expected, there was quite a lot of handsewing... maybe 10?
First worn: So far, just for some quick pictures (it was either too hot or too rainy for actual wearing). They’ll definitely get a lot of wear, though.
Total cost:
Cca 160-170 CZK for the fabric (I've lost the receipt), 15 CZK for the zipper + the other odds and ends take it to about 200 CZK = Just about those 10 USD (yay for remnant bin!).

Also wearing:
the Miss Barbora hat - C&A, a gift 
striped T-shirt - Ellen Amber, thrifted
necklace - made by me
belt - unknown origins, found at home
shoes - Clarks, second-hand

And a tomcat who wasn't happy about becoming a fashion accessory at all. 

Oh, right, outside of being a Historical Sew Fortnightly item, it's also an #Oonapalooza item for the Sewcialists group. So I wanted to be a bit more creative with my photos, Oona-style, but no. My poses, it turns out, are limited to: front; back; maybe side; okay, squatting down not very creatively; looking off into a distance in a manner that makes me unwilling to share those photos; grabbing a cat and hoping for the best.

Friday, 18 July 2014

HFF #4: Foreign Foods - "The Moor of Venice" (a poppy seed cake)

When I came across a cake called "Mouřenín benátský" - "The Moor of Venice" in Rettigová's cookbook, and when I saw it was a poppy seed cake with lemon zest, I knew I had to try it. It has a somewhat funny name (and politically incorrect from a modern perspective, but); it definitely qualifies for Challenge #4; it clearly has a Shakespeare connection (pity the Literature challenge was not meant like that...); and it's a poppy seed cake, which I'd wanted to try my hand at for a while.

The Recipe:
Mouřenín benátský
Utři hodně na míse čtvrt libry čerstvého a čtvrt libry přepouštěného másla, vmíchej do něho 4 celé vejce a 4 žloutky jedno po druhém, dej k tomu 3 lžíce hustých kvasnic a 3 lžíce smetany, a zadělej všecko s jedním žejdlíkem mouky, aby z toho bylo tak lehké těsto jako na třenou buchtu; pak utluč žejdlík máku a zamíchej ho do toho těsta s půl librou tlučeného cukru a s rozkrájenou kůrou s půl citronu, malinko to osol a dej to do dortové formy.

Venetian Moor
In a bowl, rub thoroughly half a pound of fresh butter with half a pound clarified butter, mix in 4 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks, one at a time, add 3 spoons of thick yeast and 3 spoons of cream, and make a dough with a pint of flour, so that it's as light a dough as for a rubbed buchta; then pound a pint of poppy seeds and mix it into the dough with half a pound of pound (um...) sugar and with cut up rind from half a lemon, salt it a little and put it into a cake / torte mold.
Right. That's quite straightforward, as old recipes go, except that as before, the yeast part is not quite clear, and it does not say a word about how to bake it.
The latter, though, is probably because the recipe right above it does. (It's also the recipe for the aforementioned "rubbed buchta".) It says to leave at least "two fingers" empty in the mold, and let it rise to fill the mold. Then not to shake it too much when putting it into the oven, and let it bake slowly for at least an hour.

So that's the recipe!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Cleaning up my space + HSF #13: Under $10 - The light entry (and a half)

I am slowly but surely cleaning and organising my room. (I've cleaned out a table for my sewing machine, and now it no longer has to sit on the dining table, yay! More room to cut fabric. :D) There were all these beads and components that I've been holding onto for years, with vague ideas of what I wanted to make, but it was all just catching dust. Pah.

So I went ahead and started making things instead. The idea here is, when the beads are unused, they sit in boxes and jars, using up flat horizontal space, while when they are made up into necklaces, they use up only vertical space on the outer side of the bunk bed (where nobody sleeps anymore):

It's a storage solution that I'm very proud of. :-) A combination of something I saw in an Ikea catalogue (with the hanger and sunglasses) and what I saw on Pinterest - it's here. The original poster used purchased hooks and towel rod, I settled for what I already had and am making my hooks from a (probably aluminum) wire I've found in my father's storage. He said he did not need it. I did. Perfect.

Now only if that stupid old sticker could be scraped off so easily.

* * *

My entry for the challenge was actually made from new beads, which, in their similarity to beads I already had, inspired me to do something about it. One of them - you can sort of see one at the closure that's a slightly different colour - I already had, the memory of which was what prompted me to buy the others. It's a somewhat skewed idea of using what you already have, but it did also prompt me to start using the other colours. ;-)

This is my light entry for the challenge. One that's not strictly historical, but it will serve me well with my historical things. (I have another entry, but it needs to be washed first, because I already managed to squirt cherry juice on it. Just by eating the cherries.)

The Challenge: #13 Under $10
Fabric: none
Pattern: none
Year: non-specific and variable; the idea was something to wear with my Regency clothes, though

Notions: glass beads, spring closure + ring, thin plastic-encased jewellery wire
How historically accurate is it? About 30%, I suppose. The "wire" is very much not and the closure is probably not accurate for Regency. I was using what I had on hand. Simple glass beads, on the other hand, are very historical and will cover me for many decades!
Hours to complete: under an hour
First worn: yesterday
Total cost: The packet of beads was 20 CZK, the wire (of which I used only a part) was 5 CZK. The closure was bought in a packet and I don't remember the cost, but since I only used part of the wire, I think 25 CZK is just about right.

The light blue / aqua of the beads is such a lovely, striking colour that the simplicity of it only enhances it. It's quite short, sitting close to the neck, which is a style you often see with pearls and beads (of whatever material) in the portraits of the era. While the colour may not be what you see often, you also don't often see portraits of more "ordinary" people, so who's to say a girl from a small Bohemian town would not have chosen them?
I'm still hoping for the pearl variety one day, but for the time being, my beloved shade of light blue is more than enough. :-)

* * *

The half:

One of those aforementioned colours of glass beads I already had was this very, very red. I had, years ago, got the idea that they looked like rowanberries, and purchased some components to make them into a rowanberry-inspired tiara or earings or something, when I figure out how.

Since then, I've figured out that with my limited jewellery making skills and the limitations of components you can find in shops, it's not likely to happen. Instead, I've turned to a style that I still don't quite know how to make either, but have some less vague ideas for:

Portrait of a Woman by Henri Francois Mulard, c. 1810, detail

Coral tiaras seem to have been very, very popular - you run across extant pieces often (just google "coral tiara" and see what happens...). They tend to be this exact shade of red, too. Gold components to thread something through are much more common than rowan-shaped ones, so I think sooner or later, I'll chance upon something that I can stick those pre-made parts into. The tiara part is still a little bit unclear, but you do find headbands as well, so I think it's that and glue / wire to the rescue. And I can still pretend they're rowanberries if I want to.

There are also some loose "beads" in the same colour; some larger and some smaller than these. I wrote "beads" in quotation marks, because they have no threading holes. They're just little glass balls.

I've found these for basically all of the colours in the original mix. I guess they're some faulty specimens; but their different sizes could come in useful in a design and I really want to figure out a way to incorporate them...