Saturday, February 11, 2017

Live & Learn: Vest Pocket Camera

Trying out my Vest Pocket Kodak - in vain!


I'm not sure if I've said much about this on my blog, but I am a writer as well. I've written several novels, and several drafts of certain novels, and hope soon to get at least one of them published!

Whilst researching for one of them, I discovered the Vest Pocket Kodak, which was widely used by soldiers during the First World War. So, I found an affordable one online and, well, I bought it. I then asked my cousin (who is a photographer) if she knew where I could get obscure film, and she pointed me in the right direction. I also found an old manual PDF online, so that I could load the film properly. I carefully chose, over the course of a few months, the eight exposures I would take. In January I took the film in to be developed. Unfortunately, all the exposures turned out nearly black, and not even one could be developed.

This shows the date. Mine is from the early 1920s. 

An old advert I found. 




Isn't it a lovely thing?



I was very disappointed, but at the same time, a little relieved, as processing and developing would have cost nearly $50. Some day I may try to figure out what went wrong, but for now my handsome, wee camera will be used as a prop for special occasions.


No joy! Black as night! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fellow Historical Costume Blogger giveaway

There is a huge world out there of amazingly talented women (and men) who make stunning and accurate historical clothing. I still consider myself a novice among them. From my small online encounters with them, however, they are knowledgeable, friendly and very willing to share their knowledge.

One such lady is having a give-away, so I thought I'd enter that giveaway here. Please check out her lovely blog Beauty From Ashes.

That's all for now. Have a good day!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Joy, Health, Love and Peace

Christmas is a crazy time of year. There are always so many things I want to get done, that not even a portion of which is possible.

I really wanted to make a traditional British Christmas Pudding for dinner, and despite the requests for Sticky Toffee Pudding (which I also made from this amazing BBC Recipe), I also made the pudding, and it turned out quite well.

I used a recipe that a friend of mine posted online, and now I don't remember where I found it:


I made several changes to it, however. I used butter instead of suet (which is trickier to find in the States), and instead of raisins & candied peel, I just used currents and dates (which I had on hand to make Sticky Toffee Pudding).

I also made another change in the steaming method. I've tied up puddings in cloth before when making the Scottish 'Clootie Dumpling' for Robert Burns night, but I always burn the cloth. So this I just steamed in a greased pudding basin covered with tin-foil, which worked beautifully.

 It turned out really well. I love old-fashioned steamed puddings.




Friday, December 30, 2016

Goals for the New Year

It's funny, I don't really like making lists, and I don't think I'm necessarily a goal-oriented person. But I do love setting goals for the New Year. 


The constant struggle between writing and sewing!


My biggest goal this year is to do a lot of writing. I have four novels that are in various stages of completion/ drafts/ etc. I want to start writing second drafts, finish other drafts, and so on. I also want to contact as many literary agents as I can. I did that To a small degree during 2016, but really need to step it up. 

The siren-call of The Historical Sew Monthly will, I'm sure, tempt me throughout the year. I don't have the time and resources to do all the challenges, but there are several which have caught my eye, and which I think I can manage with what I have on hand in the way of patterns and fabric. 


The September challenge is to recreate a costume from a film, and make it historically accurate. I've always loved this blouse from 'Random Harvest' (1942), whose story begins in 1918. I found this lovely - and very similar - blouse pattern from 1914, and would love to try it out. We'll see!


During the next two years, I want to delve into the 1910s even more. I want to expand my 1910s wardrobe, and revisit some of the poetry and memoirs inspired by the war.  I also have several magazines from that decade, mostly Modern Priscilla, and I'd like to try some of the sewing and cooking tips they offer.

Which brings me to my next goal: properly learning to crochet. I attempted this, but never mastered it, and I mean to in the year to come. I'm pretty sure all these projects will keep me plenty busy in the next twelve months! 

Monday, December 12, 2016

End of Year Reckoning

This past year I worked on several sewing projects (many not pictured, or rather, featured in a post, alas!). Though I didn't create anything on the scale of my 18th century stays and dress, I completed just as many pieces, even branching out into the late 20th century -- not just the 1910s this time.

A vest I made from an early 1970s pattern
This year, I tried making a few things for other people as well - I managed trousers for my sister Morag and a skirt for my sister Heather:

Heather in a skirt from a pattern by Decades of Style



I've also worked on a lot of writing this year. There's no visible way of showing that, alas, though I know I've written at least 81,000 words, which is quite a lot.

A skirt I made from the same pattern that included the above vest. 


Since last November, I've also been working on Kayla Itsines Beach Body Guide, thanks to my sister-in-law April. I've not perhaps been as vigorous with it as I should, but I have lost twenty pounds in about a year's time. I've never been a proponent of working out, and I still don't like the idea of gyms, but that's what I liked so much about this programme. It gave me time to still look after my nieces, and write and sew and all the rest of it.

2016 has been a crazy year for all of us, but I am grateful for the things I've learned, and the opportunity, in the year to come, to continue to learn and create.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

1918 Dress: Three's a Charm



I had some extra fabric, so made myself a little beret. Forgive the bathroom selfie! 

A few months back I bought a wool/ rayon blend that was on sale. It's a lovely olive colour (autumn colours are my favourite to wear - especially gold, brown and olive). It took me awhile to decide what to make with it. I decided I would try my 1917/ 1918 Past Patterns pattern. I've had it for a few years now, and this is the third time I have used it! The first time was a bit of a debacle, as I was too large for the measurements so added a panel into the bodice. The second time, I think, was fairly successful - I used it to make my half-mourning dress, which can be seen in this post

Every time I use this pattern I'm a little more patient with it - and it comes together more successfully. I'm very pleased with the outcome of this third attempt. Also, this is the first time I used the small collar instead of the wide pointed one. 

I hadn't realised, till studying the pattern, that it was heavily influenced by women's uniforms during WW1. It's interesting how much war influences fashion - and the 1910s is a very obvious example of that! 

The inspiration for my beret: British Army, First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (copyright IWM - Q 3257)

My sister & I went to the Salt Lake City Cemetery - a perfect place to take WW1-inspired photos! 

Inspired by some research I was doing for one of my novels, I recently bought a Kodak 'Vest Pocket Camera'. This model was used by soldiers, and I wanted to see how they worked! Post more about this will be coming! 









A view of the back.
Close-up. I'm really pleased with how the back of the dress turned out.

It was a perfect, beautiful autumn day. 


Beautiful, serene autumn day!


Clerks in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) lined up to meet Queen Mary, 1917 (Copyright IWM - Q 2494). One can see the similarity between their clothes and my dress.

My lovely sister Rebeccah, who took all the photos.




Friday, November 11, 2016

A Wee Scottish Halloween


When I was in my first year of university, I took a Celtic Civilisation course. My professor is a native of Scotland, and she told us that her children would carve turnips, which was the traditional Scottish vegetable of choice. Instead of trick-or-treating, Scottish children used to go guising, wearing fearful home-made masks. The book 'The Silver Bough' by F. Marian McNeill gives a detailed account of these traditional Halloween traditions and practices.

This year, I really wanted to recreate a Scottish Halloween as much as possible. The weekend before Halloween I carved pumpkins with my mum, sister and niece. But my mother and I also carved turnips. Turnips (or rutabagas) are much smaller than pumpkins, and frankly, more difficult. The whole inside needs to be carved out. But the result is definitely worth it.


Carving the turnip!


Below: my mother's turnip on the left, and mine on the right. 






On Halloween itself, I made Scottish oat cakes. I used a recipe from my grandmother Jean Grant McCloud (her parents were both Scottish), which she got from a hotel in Nova Scotia.  Instead of baking them, however, I fried them on a 'girdle' (a griddle-iron), which is more traditional.   





The recipe if you want to try it. One of my sisters recently made some and put some chocolate on top, which makes them quite similar to Hobnobs. YUM!

I've made these oat cakes before, but have never fried them. The consistency is different, but however you cook them, they are pretty delicious! I also reduced the sugar and butter this time because it seemed like SO MUCH!