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...

Thursday 10 July 2014

HFF #2: Soups and Sauces - Why Czechs don't eat celery sauce anymore

I love celery and I was hoping this could be another celery staple. But it did not turn out so well, so I'll have to keep looking.

I mean, it turned out okay in the end and the taste was quite good, but it was too much work and confusion for a meal that was way too simple and not-so-filling for all that work.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it already started with the fact that the recipe was quite confusing.

Half a large, cleaned-up celery we grate on a rough grater and let it boil in water mixed with soup until it is like a mash. (We use so much water, how much sauce we need, about 1/2-3/4 liter. We add then 3 spoons of sour cream, a spoon of flour, thicken the sauce with it, spice with a pinch of mace (if we do not have cream, we put in regular roux), let boil, so that the sauce is appropriately thick, we sieve it and serve with potatoes. We taste it, maybe add salt, or if we want to have it more savoury, we mix a teaspoon of Zátek's mustard into it.

Translation as close as possible. Including the one missing bracket.

Points of contention, as they came up during my preparation and cooking:

  1. How large is a large celery? We operated under the impression that vegetables were not too large back then (I used two small celeries, because that's what I had). But now I have my doubts.
  2. What is the rough grater? I mean, I do have two sizes of holes on my grater, and it follows obviously that it's the larger ones. But, as I found out during the cooking, even when I grated it on the smaller holes (because it was much easier and faster; the large holes kept just tearing the celery unevenly), it did not really cook into a mash even though I cooked it for quite a time. So I dread to think what it would have been like / how long it would have taken if I had used the larger holes!
  3. Soup: You have to realise (which involves reading the preface to the cookbook) that it means "stock".
  4. How much water and how much stock?
  5. If I add too much water to the amount of celery I used, I have to cook it longer. Presumably. Because if not enough water evaporates, it's not mashy enough. So why did I use so much water to begin with?
  6. Do you mix the flour into the cream, as I did, or add the cream first and then the flour?
  7. Sieving. When I sieve it, do I use what comes out below, or what remains in the sieve? Logic says the former. But even though I cooked it for a long time, there was much, much more remaining in the sieve and what came out below was basically coloured water, not a sauce. So I gave up on sieving and used all of it.
  8. Aaand... we are told to serve it, and then we are told to taste it and add flavour. Yeah, really smooth, Mrs Kejřová. You're not that scatterbrained normally, what happened here?
  9. Speaking of which, no mention of salt before. Is there salt in the "soup"? If not, then this whole thing is definitely not savoury enough.
  10. Obviously, brands are always tricky in old recipes. (I used Dijon mustard, which is almost certainly not what the original was, but at that point, I really did not care anymore.)

So it came to ten points, and a list much longer than the recipe itself. A bit Not Good.

And there are even more points of contention for inexperienced cooks in the original that do not quite come across in the translation. Namely, the word for mace that is used is "květ" - "bloom", because the full Czech name for mace is "muškátový květ" (I won't try to translate that). It's a spice that is almost never used nowadays. My sister had no idea what it meant. I only did because I've been immersed in old cookbooks longer.
Plus, the word for "pinch" used is also no longer used nowadays. More confusion for my sister.

The celeries came with leaves, so I added some to the stock.
I did salt the sauce to begin with, I think, and definitely tasted it before serving.

I think that pretty much covers "how I made it". It was okay-ish, but after this one attempt, I was really, really fed up with this recipe (so much so that I could not bring myself to finish the remaining sauce and write it up). All that trouble for something that just goes on top of potatoes; for that, I can easily just use quark/curds as usual. Add cream if I want a more saucy texture. Mix it with something if I want a more interesting taste. Much easier, and still more filling, too.
And now I understand why you'll never, ever see celery sauce cooked in the Czech Republic nowadays. It's clearly a recipe that could not and did not catch on.

The Challenge: #2 Soups and Sauces

The Recipe: From Úsporná kuchařka ("Frugal Cookbook") by Anuše Kejřová (a 1990 reprint of a 1924 edition), see above

The Date/Year and Region: 1920s Czechoslovakia

How Did You Make It: see above

Time to Complete: I did not really keep track (I never do, even when I try), but it was definitely in the realm of hours. And definitely more than two. It was meant to be lunch and turned into supper. You have to make the stock first, and then it took forever to cook it into an acceptable mash.

Total Cost: I don't remember anymore, but I think the fairly low cost (and using the rest of the stock for actual soup) was about the only good thing about it. Neither chicken bones for stock nor celery are too expensive - the bones were 16 CZK, if I remember correctly.

How Successful Was It?: Blah. Taste okay, the rest not okay. Never again.
How Accurate Is It?: I can't really tell because I have no idea what it was supposed to be like. I followed the recipe as closely as I could (except for the grating and sieving). So I suppose it's accurate in not being successful...

Saturday 5 July 2014

HFF #3: This Day in History - T.G. Masaryk's breakfast and supper

Americans have independence, and so do Czechs.

Of course, our actual Independence Days are January 1st (for the Czech Republic, and no one really celebrates it because of the historical circumstances and the fact that everyone celebrates the night before), and October 28th (for Czechoslovakia, and the Independence Day we still respect more, and it is celebrated much less and by much less people than the American Independence Day. That's Czechs for you.)

But as I looked into July events in Czech history, I came across the fact that July 4th 1915 was the day T.G. Masaryk made public his concept of Czechoslovakia and breaking up the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I thought it was a funny Independence-related coincidence, what with the Americans in the Historical Food Fortnightly mentioning Fourth of July foods. And then I remembered that Masaryk had told Karel Čapek about his eating habits for Hovory. So there it was, waiting to happen!

(Of course, there are some important July historical events that actually rate for national holidays tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. But I'll be busy and away from home and it would require lots of research that I have no idea where to start with. So while it could be interesting, it would defeat me and my personal purpose in doing this, which is simply to broaden my cooking skills.)

* * *

Masaryk's eating habits (Karel Čapek: Hovory s T.G. Masarykem, Československý spisovatel, Praha 1969, p. 159):

"Above all, then, temperance; to eat and to drink much less than people usually eat and drink. If you want to know, I eat three times a day: for breakfast, first some fruit, a bit of butter and jam on a toast, sometimes a piece of fried bacon and about half a cup (or mug) of unsweetened tea; I used to eat a soft-boiled egg sometimes, but I am told it is not very healthy. For lunch (/dinner), several spoons of white soup, a small piece of meat, more vegetables, a piece of dessert, fruit and black coffee. For supper I am used to having a small plate of porridge or a piece of buchta*, with milk coloured with a drop of coffee. That's enough. ... Between those three meals, I don't take anything else, except maybe some plain tea around five o'clock if there is company."
* that is, something cake-like, most likely

So having that to go by, I thought for a moment, hey, I can do the whole day like that. But I didn't in the end, because
a) while I don't eat so much myself, I drink a lot, and in the summer heat, I don't think I could switch to almost no drink (and all caffeine / theine at that!) all of a sudden without repercussions;
b) I'd probably spend most of the day cooking and looking up recipes and buying the things I did not have at home (meat for the soup and... meat, and vegetables other than potatoes and onion...) - and I wanted to sew and do other things.

So I went for the very, very simple and basic things: toast with jam and semolina porridge (because semolina is what I had at hand). Which feels a little bit like cheating the purpose of the Historical Food Fortnightly. But it's actually not, because while it's very, very simple things I can make even without a recipe, I usually make them utilising some more modern tools, like a toaster and a special double-boiler. I wanted to see how they would have been made in Masaryk's time.

And then there was fruit, of course, and this is a good time of year for that.

For the toast and porridge, I opened Anuše Kejřová's cookbook again. It's spot on for the era.

Thursday 3 July 2014

HSF #12: Shape and Support - My Regency stays

After some four years or so, they are finished - well, unless I decide I want to do some alterations to the cording or something...

Finished, wearable, very much so. Wearing them right now. I'm getting used to the busk - the fact that I cannot just bend like I'm used to is... weird. But other than that, I like the fit, and would wear them out just because.

Thursday 19 June 2014

1848 Jacket Sewalong: Quick post on problems with the pattern

By now, it's clear I'm late with the kacabajka. It's OK. I've finished the stays, I'll finish the kacabajka later. I'm now in the muslin-possibly-lining stage.

And I have noticed some things about the pattern that you should know of if you're planning on working on it (if you've already been working on it in the background, you probably already know). It's things that I may have to eventually rework the whole pattern for, but for now, it's warnings.

I've already noticed that the front pattern is too short in the shoulder-to-bust measurement, so I had to add to the shoulder / front armscye, and therefore also to the sleeve.
This, I think, has partly to do with my alterations of the pattern - the original wearer had a much shorter torso than me or your average modern pattern.

More importantly, the sleeve pattern as it was was already wrong - the seam did not match up; one side was about 2,5 cm shorter than the other - when you look at the piece, the left side is a bit too short under the elbow.
This is a problem that must already be present in the draft in the book, because I followed it closely.

I wanted to include pictures, but I guess it's better to put this out as soon as possible, even without pictures, than wait until I have good pictures to include...

Saturday 14 June 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly 1: Literature - Breadrolls (Mini breadrolls with caraway seeds)

This isn't HSF, this is HFF. People were inspired by the Historical Sew Fortnightly and outbranched with another aspect of reenacting, just like the HSF open to people who don't necessarily have to reenact. I love this.

Research and cook, in this case.

The first challenge was Literature:

1. Literary Foods  June 1 - June 14
Food is described in great detail in much of the literature of the past. Make a dish that has been mentioned in a work of literature, based on historical documentation about that food item. 

So this is mine. I should admit straight up that it's a bit of a joke. I'm Czech, OK? You'll see what that has to do with anything soon.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Finished and drying

Just a quick post to let you know I'm alive and indeed productive. :-) Well, sort of; it takes me longer than I want to because I let myself be distracted, and stuff. The usual. I'm a lazy person.

But I finished the Regency stays! Finished, finished, finished!

Washed and drying, ready to be worn! Photographed against the light, so you can sort of see the construction...

They are now, officially, ready to be entered into the Shape & Support HSF Challenge. But that can wait.

* * *

In other news, I could not find my seam ripper, only to just now find it hidden underneath a remnant of the white sari fabric from my sister's kathak skirt. As in, you know, the flimsiest thing possible to be hidden underneath.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

The top is bound!

I so love the clean look that suddenly emerges from the mess of making here.

I think I'm particularly pleased with the trimmed down shoulder straps. They were always meant to be like this. I just kept the seam allowances on until I was really finishing the edges, to prevent it from the inevitable effects of fraying during the making. I got so used to the chunky look that this final version amazes me in its elegance.
I basted the ends together, for the eyelets and to outline the curve. The rest could be left as it was.

The same with the corners where the sraps tie.

I also used basting elsewhere during the process (like down the centre front). It's very useful.

I still have to make and attach the busk pocket (including eyelets), to make and sew the lace-tying cord on the bottom and finally to bind the bottom. Oh, and to wash it before wearing, because there's a lot of pencil markings on the inside that I really don't want transferred onto my chemise. :-)
(The good thing about this type of stays / corset is that you can wash them. You probably do not want to do it very often, but there's essentially nothing in the construction that should prevent it. I wash my corded brassiere regularly and the washing and ironing actually helps it get back into shape after it gets stretched with prolonged wearing.)

It will still fall neatly within the requirements for finishing ("not more than six weeks before") for the Shape and Support challenge in the Historical Sew Fortnightly. So I can still enter it into a challenge, and actually one that's meant exactly for this type of garment!

I have an idea (already partially realised) for the upcoming Art challenge, too, but we'll see about that. At the moment, I think the Politics challenge takes precedence...

Sunday 25 May 2014

Binding the stays & the laces - HSF 9: Black and White

I started binding the stays, even though I still have one piece of cord to insert on the other side. I was fed up with the cording, which, considering the cording was probably my favourite part of it, is quite a feat. But with such lovely aqua binding lying around, it's not such a wonder. It's so perfect. It finishes the stays (by now rather Frankensteined and getting on my nerves) into something once again perfectly mine.

It's one of the bias bindings I got from my aunt.

Coloured binding is historical, honest, although I don't recall seeing any blue bindings. It's probably not completely accurate for the super-neoclassical period of all white sheer dresses, but I don't plan on any sheer white dresses at this point and if I ever venture there, I guess I can just as well go the whole way, start from scratch and make myself one of those more period-correct stays Sabine discovered. It's what I'm going to make my sister - I'm sure she'll be tickled to have stays based on a Dutch example. ;-)

As you can see on the above photo, there is a piece of cord sewn in next to the lacing eyelets. That's what I'm tying my lace to. I'm not sure anymore where I got the idea from, but it's something I came across in my research into spiral lacing.

The laces, as well as that piece of cord, are made by me, too.

Because I'm still working on the stays, I entered the laces into the Black and White challenge (a bit late, but it makes me feel good to have something up). Because I made them myself, too, it's more or less a separate item, and they're white. Ish. You know, the colour linen is when it's basically white.

What the item is: Stay laces
The Challenge: Black & White
Fabric: none, see notions
Pattern: none - I was inspired by this blog post by Stephanie Ann; but because my cord is thicker, I cast only two stitches - it's basically like a lucet cord made on knitting needles.
Year: early 19th century
Notions: linen cord (of a baker's twine variety)
How historically accurate is it? I don't have any documentation for my time period, but I think it's at least 100% plausible
Hours to finish: I lost count - it wasn't much, but it was an on and off project
First worn: Only for tryouts so far
Total cost: I don't remember anymore, but I think the cord was about 30 CZK, not more.

I'm still contemplating whether I will go the same route with tying the shoulder straps or if I will pretty it up and use ribbons. :D But I don't have any period accurate(ish) ribbons and I'm cheap, so I guess knitted cords it is...

It's a fun technique. I like that I'm able to do it on knitting needles, because it's faster and tighter than when I try it lucet-like (more specifically, I've tried it as spool knitting). I could make myself shoe laces as well.

Friday 23 May 2014

Buchlovice chateau, Part 1

There are several chateaus with similar names in Moravia, beginning with B and ending with -ovice. The original idea was to visit them all and then completely confound you with a series of posts about them all. But that plan fell through because we did not visit Boskovice last year, and we will never visit the fourth one (the name of which I can never remember), because it turns out it's actually not open to public.

So you got the post about the beautiful cheateau in Bučovice, and now, much later, you get posts about Buchlovice (there must be more of them, because there was so much to see and photograph). And you may get Boskovice even later. (It's an Empire / Neoclassical / Regency-style chateau, so we've been saving that for when I have my Regency dress. So hopefully this year.)

Buchlovice are further to the north of Moravia than Bučovice. There are hills (quite steep at places) and there is also a castle nearby, Buchlov. But we did not go there, so we had a lot of time and spent a very pleasant carefree July day roaming the surroundings of the chateau. It turned out to be a good choice, because there's a large park with various hidden statues and buildings. And beside this, there is also a little zoo - actually a sanctuary for injured wild animals, whatever those are called in English - and every summer, a fuchsia exhibition. So we had a lot to see, and I'm actually still not sure if we managed to find everything that is to be found in the park!

You can read all about the history and so on on the webpage - I'd just pull it from there anyway. :-) Suffice to say, the chateau was built in 1701 and it's an Italian Baroque style of building, I believe one of the first so lightly designed, "summer" chateaus in the country, a type that later became very popular (some of the most famous Czech chateaus - like Lednice and Hluboká - are summer residences, although those two are both from the 19th century). It actually consists of two very similar buildings facing each other symmetrically, one on a terrace above the other. The upper one used to be stables and now houses all the offices, toilets and an exhibition room. The lower building is the chateau itself where the guided tour takes place.

I think I knew I would love the place the moment we entered the ladies' toilets and saw this, just sitting there utilitarianly (is that even a word?):

Even the view from the window was nice.

I have a thing for old buildings with thick walls and paneled windows and doors...