Tuesday, August 7, 2018

1910s Lingerie Dress

I just celebrated my birthday, and had decided, a few months ago, when I discovered a beautiful 1910s dress from my favourite Etsy shop (Marybethhale) that I would treat myself to a birthday gift this year (layaway is a dangerous thing!)

I also decided, once I had the dress, that I must do a photo shoot wearing it. My sister Beccah and my sister-in-law April obliged and took these great photos.

This is what was known as a lingerie dress — all white, with embroidery. I’m pretty certain my dress dates from around 1914.

A photo of the poet Edna St Vincent Millay, in 1914. Her lovely linen dress is very similar in style to my lingerie dress. 

We decided to do the photo shoot in the lovely Memory Grove in Salt Lake City, a Park memorialising soldiers who died in the 1st World War. 

Pretending my Kodak Vest Pocket Camera works!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

New Wearing History Edwardian Blouse

Wearing my completed blouse. 

When I determined, about three years ago, to make a 1910s wardrobe, one of the first patterns I used was the Wearing History Edwardian Blouse and Guimpe pattern. I based it off of some blouses seen in season two of Downton Abbey. It was a great pattern to work with.

The first blouse I made, back in 2015. 

Last summer I bought some lovely sheer textured cotton from Renaissance Fabrics, and cut out a new blouse. I got cold feet for some reason, and didn’t work on it right away. In the spring I slowly started work on it. My sister-in-law, who recently took up sewing, had put me to shame with her skill and patience, and I was much more careful with this piece, and corrected every mistake. It was a good lesson to learn, and I think has payed off.

A blouse from circa 1904, Philadelphia Museum. 

Two blouses from Augusta Auctions, 1905-1915. 

Wearing it with the 1910s skirt I made a few years back, and my American Duchess shoes! 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Howards End: novel and both adaptations

I am the youngest in my family, and from the time I was very young, was raised on a steady diet of British period drama: the 1975 Poldark, and the Jane Eyre featuring Timothy Dalton were among my early fare. Then I, along with my older sisters, was swept away by the Edwardian perfection which enchanted the world with Merchant Ivory’s adaptations of EM Forster’s novels. Our favourite was A Room with a View in 1985 (best filmed kiss in all cinema history!), but when Howards End came out in 1992, I was nine years old, perhaps ten, depending on when it came out, but I was enchanted. The scene of Samuel West wandering through the field of bluebells is forever imprinted in my brain.

I couldn’t find a good photo of the bluebell scene, but here is the well-intentioned Schlegels attempting (unsuccessfully) to put the awkward Leonard Bast at his ease.

It had been years since I’d seen this adaptation when the new BBC miniseries came out. I started watching it with my sister and realised I was watching quite a different story. I ordered a copy of the book and started reading it right away.

Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen in the new production (BBC/ Starz)

I loved the book, and I loved the 2017 adaptation. In fact, when I finished the novel it had a powerful effect on me. The theme of ‘just connect’ is an acutely pertinent one for our world today, for though we are connected via the internet in ways people of even twenty years ago would find impossible, we’re not really actually physical or connecting to people anymore. The power of trying to help people (whether with good or ill effects) and being, at least to a certain degree, responsible for those around us is also something we should keep in mind.

So, I finally re-watched the Merchant Ivory film, as I hadn’t remembered it much. I was so surprised by how different the adaptations are from each other. The new series follows the book almost completely. The 1992 film, on the other hand, plays up and romanticises the relationship between Helen and Mr Bast, and sadly plays down Margaret’s character, thereby stripping her of her power, warmth and importance throughout the story. I was bitterly disappointed in the adaptation, despite its beauty. I loved how the new series was able to follow the wonderful story and all its characters. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

‘A Power o’ Nature’

I have recently been thinking about the dissertation I wrote a little over four years ago. The subject and research was on holy wells in Scotland, particularly those in Argyll, the Isle of Bute and Fife. It’s funny, as I’d been in the thick of university life, and would have thought I was at the top of my game as far as research and writing are concerned.

The Lady Well, Glasgow. It’s wonderful to be able to go over my own stomping-ground in my writing. These photos are from June 2014

Ive been reading up on the subject the past couple of weeks, and I’m already realising I could have done a lot better. Though it’s slow going, I’ve been working on a writing project with the wells, and I love reading and researching and writing again. I hope I’ll be able to go somewhere with this project!

The capped holy well. It’s encouraging to see that it’s still visited. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Worth the Wait

I’m not sure what the title of this post will be, nor am I entirely sure of everything I intend to say.

When I left Glasgow four years ago, I was sad to leave Scotland, but I knew that it was important to go back home (Utah) and be with family. That decision has definitely been a blessing. I’ve been able to spend so much time with my mother, and the adventures my sister Beccah and I have had are priceless. Not to mention taking care of my two nieces.

The magical beauty of Kilmory Oib

When I went back for a visit to the UK last spring, I stood in a deserted village in Scotland and listened to the silence one can only achieve when in the middle of nowhere. My heart ached. It’s been aching ever since, and this past summer, I thought I’d found the answer. Do a PhD (involving writing, sewing and Dorothy Wordsworth) at Lancaster University. The stars seemed to align. I took an excellent online course about William Wordsworth. I contacted professors at the university and they were kind, generous and encouraging about my ideas. In late November, I submitted my application, and waited eagerly to hear back.

And waited. And waited. I finally got my answer in early February  (only a little over two months, I know, but it felt a lot longer!). It was ‘No’. I immediately emailed the one particular professor I’d been corresponding with and asked her advice. It was to apply for a masters degree first, then go on to do the PhD. She pointed out that academically and financially, it might be a better deal. I was convinced. So I applied for the masters program she recommended, and which would fit in with what I wished to study and accomplish.

So, another two-ish months of waiting, and I got an answer to my application.

It was ‘No’.

My kind family and friends tell me that something else better is in the wings. And I might still achieve my Dorothy studies in some other way, through another avenue. It is difficult, when o e had such a lovely plan, to have to start from scratch and come up with something new. It isn’t difficult to have your credentials, your references, your writing all politely declined.

Good thing I’ve already become used to rejection from literary agents!

But I have learned a few things from this agonising experience. Life is full of waiting. And I do want to get a PhD and become a professor, something I did not know about myself a year ago. I just have to go about it a different way. I’ll get there in the end, for I also know that anything worth having is worth the effort, worth the work and, of course, worth the wait.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Oh she’s my dear my darling one...Darby O’Gill Dress!

I’ve grown up watching the fabulously creative Disney film ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’(1959). It’s always been a family tradition to watch it every St. Patrick’s Day. If you haven’t seen it, go find it now! It is hilarious and delightful, and a very young pre-James Bond Sean Connery stars in it. What’s more, he sings! It’s magic.

The leading lady, Janet Muro, who plays Katie has a lovely Sunday best dress in the film that I’ve been wanting to recreate for a good ten years.

One of my favourite places to order fabric from is Denver Fabrics. They recently had a sale and I ordered a multi-coloured small houndstooth rayon to use for a Katie dress. Her dress in the film is more of an orange/ brown combination, but I was happy with my fabric choice, and knew I wouldn’t be making an exact copy anyway.

Two close-ups of the Darby O’Gill dress, and the fabric I bought. 

I used a pattern from the late 1930s which I’d used before and knew would turn out well, although I would be altering the bodice a great deal!

The original pattern instructs to cut the bodice on the fold, but I made it two pieces, as well as further cutting the front tabs, which in the original pattern are gathered details on the bodice. 

I also had to insert a panel with pin-tucks, which terrified me a little, as I’ve always avoided pin-tucks in the past. I also had trouble with the collar. My neckline was too wide for a traditional collar, so I ended up finishing it off with bias tape and lace and am quite happy with the result. 

I also made my dress shorter than the one in the film, which is ankle-length.   

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Approaching Easter: ritual, language and faith

I don’t often discuss religion on social media, though sometimes when holidays come around, I feel more of a compulsion to share my feelings with the small circle of the world outside which actually sees my small drop in the ocean.

William Holman Hunt, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet. Although I don’t believe Jesus was a ginger, I love this depiction of him as a strong, intense young man. 

I unabashadly love Christmas — it’s early traditions and it’s pre-Christian beginnings. I love the sense of holiness and wonder. I especially love the carols. I feel guilty that I cannot summon up equal enthusiasm for Easter, which is ironic. For without the resurrection, there would be no point in celebrating the birth of Jesus.

I think part of it is that there is ritual in Christmas, and there isn’t in Easter. Let me explain that statement. I’m a Mormon, and there’s precious little ritual in anything we do. Sometimes that makes me sad.

Ritual helps. It makes a difference. Again, at Christmas time, I love lighting the advent candles every Sunday, as I sing a song I learned from my friends in New York: “Advent Advent, the candles burn. First one then two then three then four, then stands the Christ-child at your door.” I have been lighting advent candles since a child, but I’ve realised in recent years,  that to other Christians, that is just part of celebrating advent.

One of my niece with the advent wreath, Dec. 2017

I hope I cause no offence when I confess that I have adopted certain rituals from other religions which have served to enrich mine, and have helped sustain my faith. In one of the Mormon books of scripture, called The Doctrine and Covenants, there is a verse which states, “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:118) I am confident that doesn’t just apply to the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I’ve come to realise lately that sometimes I am more spiritually fed by a passage in a novel than by a scripture. Again, I don’t think that is a bad thing. We are all vastly different, and God knows that different vehicles touch hearts in different ways.

Madeleine L’Engle, in ‘Walking on Water’ expresses this idea perfectly: “I don’t mean to water down my Christianity into a vague kind of universalism, with Buddha and Mohammed all being more or less equal to Jesus — not at all! But neither do I want to tell God (or my friends) where he can and cannot be seen.”

If I can learn, from Madeleine L’Engle, or Dorothy L Sayers, that to question and doubt is a beautiful part of my faith (indeed, faith by definition is not knowing), then surely that is a cause for rejoicing.

Today is Maundy Thursday. I don’t know much about how other Christians celebrate it, as Mormons don’t. But I was having a hard morning, and missing my dad who died a little over five years ago. From what I understand, it celebrates the last Passover feast which Jesus had with his disciples, and often involves washing of feet. As it so happened, my three-year-old niece devised a game with a small bowl of water and paper towels and she began washing my feet. I somehow feel that this was not a coincidence.

In the Passover Haggadah, my favourite part is the Dayenu — when each miracle that the Children of Israel were  blessed with when Moses freed them from the Egyptians is listed separately, followed by the word Dayenu: it would have been enough.

I am not doubting my religion. I love it, and the example and life of Joseph Smith the prophet is a constant source of joy to me. It gain much knowledge and strength from my brothers and sisters in the gospel, and from attending church. But I can honestly admit that there are elements of the church today which vex and trouble me. Therefore, lighting candles, singing songs, learning about myself and my God in new words is a blessing to me. None of us is perfect. My life is certainly not as I expected it would be growing up. I can admit my disappointments and surprises, and also the many joys I have experienced and am continually experiencing, and say, with a full heart, Dayenu.