Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Sunday

Today, it's not just Easter Sunday; there was a baptism in our church.

And there were many children, too. But I did not take photos of them. In part because they're so lively.

 * * *

I did not really intend to do an outfit post, because... well, it's Easter. But I got so many compliments at church that I figured I'd better document this for posterity. As in, the purpose of the outfit posts is to document what I like wearing and what looks good on me and this apparently fits into both categories.

Also because the coat is one of my newest thrift shop finds that fills a considerable hole in my wardrobe. It was very cheap for such a good staple. There are some little problems with it (like a spot hidden by the purse), but it's very much "me", and I don't find coats that feel just right that often.

beige wool felt cloche - C&A
green cotton T-shirt - thrifted
brown cotton blend sweater - C&A, second hand from a friend
beige cotton coat - thrifted
blue plaid woollen blend skirt, bias cut - thrifted
brown stockings - some Czech brand or other, České fusekle in Brno
black leather pumps - Clarks, second hand / thrifted
shoulderbag / purse - thrifted
ring - my baptism gift from grandma

Sometimes, an outfit is not a sum of its parts. But this one is. I like them all, and I like the complete picture probably even more. Not bad for something I just pulled together in the morning when I decided I did not feel like wearing my Blueberry skirt on such a bright day...

It's actually a very 1930s silhouette, somehow.

The cats, of course, got curious. So here are some cat photos for you:

One of the tiny ones playing with the tripod. We've reached a point where only some of the cats have names. This is the playful one. It may be the same one as the one called Lorinka, but I'm not sure and think not. Their coats changed a lot with the change to summer coat. :/

A tomcat being mesmerised by a bird.

This tomcat.

* * *

And I've just seen my first butterfly of the year. It was yellow. Joy.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

An Easter gift for you: Free pattern for a 1848 jacket aka kacabajka, and sewalong

So, the 1848 kacabajka. The one I have a pattern for.

Want that pattern? You can have it. You can have it for free, as a multisize printable PDF.

There are, of course, catches, because I'm by no means a pattern-making expert. But it's free! Well, free provided you don't count additional work as cost. Practically free! You can make yourself a mid-19th century jacket, or one in the style, and you don't have to pay for the pattern, or painstakingly resize it from a tiny draft. That's good, right?

A new cover for my mobile phone (and a partial tutorial)

I sorely needed a new cover for my mobile phone. I made one about four years ago and it was no longer fit for polite company.

So, that's what I've just done. Made a new cover for my mobile phone. With felt inside to protect the phone.

It's not perfect - it's only the second one I've ever made, and the first I've done with felt and on machine, and there's some fiddly stitching around corners in very limited space that I really could have done better... among other things. But the first one lasted me for four years, so hey, not bad.

Although towards the end, the first one looked like this:

So yes, I definitely needed a new one.

I got very lucky with the fabric. Some time ago, Spoonflower did a promotion on a new fabric - it's called Silky Faille, which of course means there's no silk in it at all and it's all polyester. Anyway, you could get a free swatch of it, so I used that opportunity to finally get myself some of my favourite design.

I mean, my favourite design of mine. I have several up on Spoonflower, but never got around to ordering any, because money and international shipping and who knows what else. Which, of course, in Spoonflower's policy meant that no one else could order them either, so it was all just a mental excercise.

But thanks to this, there's now one up that you can order yourself! And now they offer the prints in wallpapers and gift wraps and decals as well, so if you're not into sewing, you can still get yourself, for example, a gift wrap with tic-tac-toe and some fish pictograms. I'm quite proud of this idea, and it turned out very well.

Tic-tac-toe fish 1 

End of shameless self promotion.

That photo above is the swatch I received. The blue is a very nice deep, rich turquoise blue (almost teal), so I was very satisfied - I was afraid the colour of the printed fabric would be blander than on screen (as it apparently happens with some colours), but no, it's actually a bit more saturated than on my screen, so it should last well.
And as I looked at the swatch, I thought it was perfect size for the new mobile phone cover that I so desperately needed.

As it turned out, it was not only perfect size, the spacing of the pattern was more or less perfect, too!

This here is my very simple pattern. You need the width of your phone (in my case, I went with 4,5 cm), the height of it (I went with 10 cm, which was slightly more than the actual height), and the thickness (2,5 cm - I also store an additional Mini SD in its case in my cover, so the thickness is more than the actual thickness of the phone).

Cut the same from felt. You can leave very narrow seam allowances with felt if you're confident you'll manage them under your sewing machine foot. I did. I'm one for minimum seam allowances and minimum fabric waste.

Sew the bottom corners first.

Then the bottom seam.

And then the side seam.

And make it nice and smooth.

Very quick, very simple. Do the same with your outer fabric. The faille frayed a lot, so I stitched it with a zig-zag stitch to prevent the fraying.

What follows is the part that I think I could have done better. There must be a better way to do it. Anyway, what I did was put the felt into the outer shell, stretch it all to fit together - I put in the mobile phone and the SD case to make it fit together the way it should. And fold down and pin the seam allowances of the shell to the felt.

This was where it got very unscientific and messy. I could not figure out which side to pin from, and which side to sew from, and so on. And at the bottom corners of the flap, I had to clip the fabric so I could fold it, and now I have exposed clipped bits there.

Anyway, I took the phone out again and topstitched it together (from the inside). And that's how I made my felt-lined mobile phone cover. Feel free to steal the idea, and feel free to order the fabric and use it for yours. :-)

Oops. I slipped into shameless self-promotion again.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

I'm looking at you, Oona

I've suddenly realised that I'm somewhat bolder - or perhaps more "so what?" - about pattern combinations than I used to be. It's subtle, subtler than Oona's technicolour, but it's there. I would not have put this simple everyday outfit together like this - maybe not even a year ago. Or if I would have, I would have felt self-conscious walking the street like that, wondering if it looks weird. I only started feeling self-conscious today upon realising that I wasn't, that I liked what I was wearing.

I suppose this is how personal style happens. When you stop putting your clothes on just like that. And then you stop worrying if your clothes match and if the skirt hits a good spot on your legs and if the sweater does not make you look fat (actually, I don't think I've personally ever worried about that last item, but you get the picture). And you put your clothes on just like that.

I don't wear this every day - I still have trousers that don't fit me very well, and things. But this is what I can throw together when I feel like it and none of it is in the wash etc. etc. And looking at that photo - a quick snap with the camera sitting wobblingly on a chair, because the tripod is at home, and still the photo looks good - I think here I've managed the art of harmonising with my environment, too. :D

I wear that Felicitas Queisser scarf All. The. Time. I like having this as my signature style, for obvious reasons. I really need more fichu-en-marmote-able scarves. Ones I could wear with my bolder colours, too.

 * * *

I'm actually not looking at Oona. I'm looking into the garden. Some spring colours are very bold.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Thank you, cats

In the post about my helpful feline assistants, I said that they had not managed to botch anything up too badly yet. I forgot to mention the several pieces of bedding they had managed to tear into.
After that post, they created a masterpiece:

This used to be a pillowcase. After it met our cats, it evolved into stash fabric.

I was thinking of using it as binding for my Regency stays and turning them into a fully bedding project (the damask I'm making the stays from is old duvet cover). But this fabric is too thick for that purpose, so I'll have to come up with something else. Since I'm hoarding blue and white fabrics for patchworking, I guess that's it.

It happened when I was away at school, so I have no idea who was responsible. It could be either of those who come inside.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

In other news, the Regency stays...

... are finally nearing completion, but too slowly to have been finished for the Under It All challenge weeks ago. Now that I'm already pretty sure my rather unconventional technique is working out (with exceptions), I feel safe enough sharing some details on the thing with you. :-)

I ran into a problem with the stays: over the years since I started making them (eeek!), my cup size has grown (I have a no-longer-fitting bra to prove that), and they ended up being too tight over the bust.

A quick check with the ever-so-helpful ladies in the Historical Sew Fortnightly group on Facebook and a quick search on the Met site proved that three bust gussets were OK in this style of stays, especially if it's a necessary alteration for fit. The Met one is later than I aim for - it's 1833, while I'm aiming more for the 1800s-1820s era -, but it's still basically the same style and I actually pan to wear these with my 1848 clothes as well (hopefully). So I went that route and started adding another gusset between the two - so far, it's just the inner layer.
And bang, I found out about another problem with my pattern: I made the gussets too full at the bottom way back when. They should have been more triangular. Now my bust is too "droopy" - everyone who commented on Facebook agreed.

 Also, I was told the back should be higher for proper period posture. Next time...

So now I'm going to introduce some darts to the inner two gussets, and all my carefull precise technique that was meant to ensure the stays looked neat now goes down the flush, but it's a great learning process. Next time: next time, I'll make the two gussets wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. And insert them a bit further apart.

I'm also thinking of taking a cue from that extant pair and adding vertical cording in between the gussets, where the Met stays have boning.

Ah yes, cording. After years of unsuccessful trips to various shops in search of the seemingly ordinary thing that is hemp cord, an internet search finally yielded a "stone" shop that carries it (= no additional shipping cost and I could see what I was getting). So while I was there, I bought two balls of it. Hopefully that will last me a while.

This was before a lot other work happened, but it gives you the idea.

The thicker channels contain a remnant I found at home, which I decided to use in what I assumed to be the places that need the most strengthening. The narrower ones are the new cord.

I changed my plans, and instead of the "pull doubled cord through a finished channel" technique I originally wanted to use (I used a variation on that in my wrap stays/brassiere), I'm doing as much of single threaded, tightly packed channels, sewn only as I go (kind of like what The Dreamstress did), as I can. It's not so much that I would not be satisfied with what the cording in my wrap stays does - I like it a lot. It's rather because I was not sure what cording pattern would work best towards a smooth fit with the long stays, and the thickness of the cord varies greatly over its length; so I decided it was better to keep figuring it out as I go.

There are only two "bones" (= cable ties) in the back, to reinforce the lacing. The rest is all cording, and guessing by various tries in front of the mirror, it's working out just fine that way. I just need to add more of it here and there, like at the waist - I'm thinking horizontal rows like under the bust, but maybe a bit curved like on many extant examples.

And I've found a piece of wood that's perfect for a busk - I just had to cut off an oddly shaped bit at one end, and additional length on the other side under the hole. The hole is a very convenient feature for lacing it in and securing it that way, as I've seen some busks do, and it was already there. It turned out it was exactly the right length after I cut it haphazardly! My father's habit of hoarding wooden odds and ends definitely paid off for me here. :D

Now I need to sand it down considerably - I really do not want any sharp edges cutting through my damask. I've already sanded it down a bit, but I think it needs more. I'm also toying with the idea of a wood-burned pattern... *cough*. I'd definitely add some varnish (I think we have a linseed variety that could even be historically correct) in either case.

And a bust pocket will have to be added. Should it come on top or to the inside?

* * *

The pattern! I can't find the pattern now, which is annoying, because I need to mark the changes... But the point is, I made the pattern myself, based on a basic style observed off countless historical specimen and this free corset drafting tutorial on Foundations Revealed. Lots of sketches were made, noting down seam lines, and then compressed into the probably simplest pattern possible. Just fairly straight front piece, two back pieces, gussets in between, straps.

I did not follow the drafting tutorial completely one-on-one, because it's a different style with the gussets. And of course, those were exactly the bits that turned out to be the most off in the trial (trial is pretty much the whole period from muslin to fnished product...). But I think, as my practically first ever foray into corsetry, it's not bad at all, and if the technique I used for making my own pattern for Regency stays turns out to work for other people as well, like my sister (ha, ha), I may even share it as a tutorial one day (ha, ha).

The pattern, as I made it, hinges on the underbust measurement. It makes sense with the style, right?
Because it's based off my actual measurements, my own drafted pattern, I think in the end I know better what I've done and how to recreate it or make better next time than I would have if I had started with a ready-made pattern. Maybe that's a wrong assumption, but it's pretty much the way I always work.
(I've actually used very few ready-made patterns in my life, now that I think about it, and most of the time it seemed more trouble than it was worth with the fit. Which is probably why I keep doing it this unconventional way.)

This was the final design in miniature form. Changes happened afterwards, like the cording pattern. More importantly, I
a) simplified it, because I did not need to insert an additional gusset in the back; it was wide enough,
b) and instead, curved it in in the back,
c) and the back armhole became wider.

Also, bad shape of bust gussets. Bad bad bad. DO NOT COPY THAT BUST GUSSET SHAPE!!!

Since I cannot find the pattern I used to cut out my fabric, I'm not sure if that's all and when various changes happened, but that's about it...
Come to think of it, the only part of the pattern that worked right from the start was the straps. I'm actually happy about that, because they're slightly curved and the curve had to be just right (and in the right direction!), and because of the lift, they had to be much shorter than normal; and I actually nailed it all.

This stays style has more give than the Victorian style the drafting tutorial is aiming at, so I could - and actually had to - be more generous with the lacing gap.

This post is most definitely one of those "mistakes happen" posts. Quite a lot of mistakes. For some reason, I made the back pattern piece much longer than the rest. 

* * *

I followed Sarah Jane's tip on construction - I don't know anymore where she said it, and don't feel like digging through her blog to find out, especially because it could have been on a forum. But she said she sews the front layers separately, and then sews them together with the back layers all in one sandwiched seam, which is what I did. (If you can't picture it, let me know, and I'll try to make you a picture.)
I basted the front layers together teporarily down the front to prevent shifting while I worked, and attached them together at the gussets with a small running stitch in the ditch.
I also wanted to follow Katherine's tutorial on gussets, but I think I didn't, and probably made my life more difficult than necessary.
The back edge is ironed under and topstitched (backstitched) together.

So those are some of the construction bits so far. There's more, and it's still not finished, so I'm definitely going to share more later.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Politics of fashion: A broad summary on the Czech national costume of 1848

Another of the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenges is now up with details - the Politics of Fashion. Now this is one challenge that definitely suits my sewing plans wonderfully. I love it when the challenges match things I wanted to make anyway. There's no other point in it for me, given how slowly I make things.

I'm going to - hopefully - deal with yet another way politics influenced fashion: I'm making one of those "national costumes" that were developed during the nationalistic emancipation that happened in Europe during the 19th century.
I've just made up the term "nationalistic emancipation", although it's quite possible someone's done it before. I mean that process of arising national consciousness in late 18th and especially during 19th century that eventually often resulted in new countries in Europe, some actually historical like mine is, others really pretty much new, or new amalgamations of historical states (hello, Italy and Germany!). It was a very political phenomenon indeed, connected to the various attempts at constitutional monarchy or more. Very often, it also led to ugly things, like nationalistic pride and conflicts and stuff like the affair of the ostensibly historical manuscripts (Rukopis královédvorský a zelenohorský) that were to prove the Czechs' famous history but were apparently falsified. People were so proud of them that those who dared to point out the inconsistencies were dubbed enemies of the nation (T. G. Masaryk, famously).
But it also involved language study - in many cases language saving - and recording of folklore, and increasingly successful attempts at literature and translations and similar stuff that is actually still going on around the world nowadays. (Like, hey, Apache Mescalero dictionary! Navajo Star Wars!) So even though it often seems like dusty past (especially if you have to learn about it for school and everyone's either treating it like something sacred, or scorning it, with no middle ground), it actually still carries a lot of significance nowadays. And without it, things like Karel Čapek's amazing writing or Stanislava Pošustová's excellent translation of The Lord of the Rings could not have happened. Just to point out some reasons why I personally am glad it happened. :-)
(Although, in this particular case, the costume does not have so much significance nowadays...)

I know some nations already more or less had their national costume / style of clothing - I think Poland was one (old portraits of Polish nobles definitely have their own style). Others had to develop their own - e.g. Germans were trying, too (I'm not sure what the results of that were - dirndl?). Yet others, obviously those nations that were well established already, did not bother. (Hello, Britain.)

Prague fashions of 1848. Note the red and white. Source (3)

Czechs bothered. And ended up with something that was actually pretty similar to, for example, Hungarian clothes (if you look at e.g. depictions of Lajos Kossuth, it's really similar). There were various reasons for that, one of them being precisely the concern of fashion that this HSF challenge is connected to. I believe, in the end, the most national part of it were the usual colours - they tended to go with blue and white, the accepted Slavic combination (which I so dearly love, too :D), or red and white, the combination found on the 19th century Czech flag. Or all of it, just as it combines on the current Czech flag.
You know how I was dreaming about the 1848 kacabajka? Talking about it with nothing happening, as is pretty much the norm on this blog by now?

The "Slavic kacabajka" of Ludmila Tomková from the collections of the Uměleckoprůmyslové muzeum in Prague. Source (1)