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! 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Vintage Baking: Lace Cookies

It's been a good long while since I've posted a recipe. But I recently re-discovered a 1920s cookbook I bought several years ago and I thought I had better try some of the recipes.

Isn't this cover so lovely?
Over 15 years ago, I visited my grandfather in Illinois and realised that my grandma Jean had a copy as well! I think it's great that we both picked out the same book, albeit nearly 70 years apart!

The Recipe

Mixing up the dough.

Getting ready to bake!

The finished product. They look a little burnt, but it was just because I used brown sugar, it made them very dark, and not-so-lacy looking. But they tasted lovely! Even the family loved them (usually they just politely try my baked goods and then steer clear of them). 

This recipe went together very well, and despite the dark colour from the brown sugar, turned out very tasty. They were crips and light and very lacy (perhaps brown lace?) I'll definitely make these again! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ode to Glasgow

A view I saw every day: Hillhead Street, with the library on the right and the university ahead.

Lately I've been reading 'In Search of Scotland' by HV Morton. It has been years since I've read this charming book, and not since having lived in Scotland. Though I may not agree with everything he writes, and he certainly wrote with an agenda, he does paint a lovely picture of Scotland. 

He describes Glasgow as a living, fascinating, wonderful creature, and after reading this, I had a happy glowing feeling at having been so blessed to have lived four years in this most wonderful city. 

Willow Tea Room, on Sauchiehall Street

So I thought I'd do a little ode-to-Glasgow post, because, hey, I can. One of my sisters is always giving me a hard time for giving my heart so entirely to Glasgow (we used to all love London to pieces and I just don't love London as much as I used to). I don't mind that I've lost my heart to Glasgow. The thing is - if you open yourself up to her, she'll more than meet you half-way. 

Trongate Church - now part of a theatre. 

The magnificent & beautiful Glasgow Cathedral. 

A view of the Riverside Museum from Govan.

I know that Glasgow has experienced a lot of difficulty over the years, most of which I'm sure I don't understand. Some stories I heard from the older ladies in my church gave me a little idea of the way people used to live - and still do, probably. I lived a sheltered life - in the West End as a student, so I'm sure I saw things through rose-coloured glasses. But I will say that I always felt safe in Glasgow, whether in Govan or the West End. 

Another view of the Cathedral - at Christmas-time. I always went there on or around Christmas Eve. 

The steps in my close.

Hillhead Street in the spring.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

1910s Drawers


There are a couple items from the box I acquired from my friend Tamara Gates which I have not yet highlighted on my blog. One of them is a piece of underclothing. Nothing romantic, like a corset, but drawers - the 1910s version of underpants! 

Every aspect of antique underpinnings is fascinating. And this homely pair is no exception. Every garment has character, and if studied even a little, tells a story. These drawers are well made, from a sturdy, tightly woven cotton that (apart from the stains) has aged well.

These are sturdy, well made closed-drawers. They have stains on them that every woman will recognise. 

These drawers, from a 1919 pattern, look very similar to the pair in my collection.

Hand-sewn buttonhole.

Large side-opening.

Mother of pearl button.

Showing the generous side opening oaf the drawers.

Beautiful crocheted lace at the bottom of the legs.

Best for last! The basting stitches still show and were never pulled out after the legs were sewn to the waistband. I find little details like this fascinating! 

I'm glad to have this piece and to learn so much from it, as I have from the other items in my collection.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Smooth Sailing 1930s Trousers & 1930s Beach Hat

Two ladies in the 1930s sporting their trousers. 

Although my true love is the 1910s, I've decided that I need to branch out into other decades of the 20th century. One of my sisters is always trying to talk me into wearing trousers more often, and I finally followed her advice and ordered the Smooth Sailing 1930s Sports Togs Pattern from the wonderful Wearing History site. This pattern is wonderful, as it includes a blouse, trousers and shorts. 

What was thrilling to me was the simplicity & ease of the trousers pattern (I'm working on a blouse, but it's early days). I loved sewing them! And not only were they easy to make, but they are superbly comfortable as well!

There is an option of adding a cuff at the bottom, but I decided on a plain hem.

Did I mention how comfy they are?

I got out a vintage 1930s hat that I've had for ages, thinking it would be the perfect hat to go with these trousers. I am just realising, however, that although I got closeups in the hat, I don't have a full-view photo of the hat with the trousers. Silly me! 

I love these sunglasses too - they can sort-of work for 1920s-40s. 

I found out from my fried Sarah that these hats are very rare, and usually not found in good condition. I am lucky to have one! 

I tried to find pictures of hats that might be like mine. Look at those great beach pyjamas! 

I love those sunglasses of Bette Davis's

Look at all those jolly trousers! Plus that yellow hat on the bottom could be like mine, as it has that under-the-chin strap.

The cool thing about the hat is that with a wee twist it folds up. So handy & easy to carry about!