Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Summing Up 2017 & Goals for 2018

I suspect, like most of you, that the past year has been a busy one, full of a mixture of triumphs, frustrations, sorrows and joys. For myself, I can say that 2017 has been one of my best years, at least when I look back on it from December’s perspective. 

In terms of accomplishment, I completed seven sewing projects, which makes me feel pretty good, especially considering the fact that I made a dress that failed completely (that’s not one of the seven), and I still have three unfinished projects waiting to be taken up again. 

The seven items I completed this year: 1. A 1910s skirt, 2. A 1930s dress, 3. A 1910s skirt, 4. A 1910s corset, 5. & 6. Ronja and Mattis costumes and 7. A kilt commissioned by a friend. 

In terms of writing, I have done quite a bit, most importantly, finishing a novel that I’ve been working on for several years (!), and which I’ve been sending out to literary agents since February. I’ve also nearly completed a first draft of a new novel. 

Many things have happened this year which have challenged me in new ways. I realise that’s a very vague statement. Most of those things are very private, and some I am waiting to write about in my blog at a future date. 

I was also able to go back to England and Scotland — my first time after having graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2014, and that was not only a blessing, but a thought-provoking and
 spiritual journey which I am still processing. 

For the coming year, I am hoping to accomplish just as much, if not more, including some of the following:

1. Sew a second kilt. 
2. Finish the three unfinished projects I began this year. 
3. Attempt a 1930s suit jacket. 
4. Sew 3 or 4 blouses. 
5. Finish my First Draft of my new novel. 
6. Read at least as many books as I did this year (25 so far). 

I think that’s a pretty good list to start off with! I hope you all will have many things to look forward to in the year ahead!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Trench Cake

I ran across a recipe for Trench Cake a year or so ago, and have been curious to try it. I found it on Pinterest (where else?) but it came from this Article  from the Telegraph. It’s a very simple recipe, and unusual in that it calls for margerine instead of butter, and vinegar in milk instead of eggs. I’m guessing this was for two reasons: first, and primarily, because of rationing. 

It didn’t make a large amount of cake, which also probably helped in sending it off to a soldier in France. 

Like most other things, WWII gets all the attention. Everyone knows about rationing in the Second World War. But I was in my twenties when I first realised that it was employed during the First World War as well! Secondly, a cake without eggs and butter probably keeps longer, if you’re sending it overseas!

So, a couple of days after Armistice Day (as I still like to call it, otherwise known as Vetrans Day in America) I made Trench Cake — with some help from my niece. 

Ready to bake!

The finished product!

I didn’t put in the peel, and I soaked the currants in hot water (with a splash of vanilla) but otherwise I followed the recipe. It didn’t look great, but I really loved the flavour. The hint of coco powder added more taste than I was expecting, so that was a good surprise. I would definitely make this again!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ronja the Robber’s Daughter

An image from the Studio Ghibli Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, and Jared and Lucy

My brother and niece love the Studio Ghibli version of ‘Ronja the Robber’s Daughter’ which plays on Amazon Prime. Actually, I love it too. The look, the music, and of course the story are all quite enchanting. 

I wasn’t able to find trim that matched exactly, but I tried to get something similar. 

So we all decided that for Halloween, my brother Jared should be Mattis, the father, and my niece Lucy should be Ronja. I volunteered to pick out the fabric and make the costumes. Although the tunics that they wear are quite simple, it was trickier to draft patterns than I was expecting. It was definitely a good exercise for me to do!

Jared, Lucy and me. I (obviously) dressed up as a witch. I love Halloween!

Monday, November 6, 2017

1910s Rilla Corset

Two years ago I made an overbust  corset from the 1910s from Truly Victorian. Since losing weight I’ve been wanting to make another one but just couldn’t get the motivation. When I saw a new pattern from  Scroop Patterns for a 1910s corset, I thought maybe a new pattern might give me the impetus I needed. 

Working on the eyelets! It’s easy, but takes a long time!

I began working on it in July and would have finished it much sooner than I did (late October) if I hadn’t had grommet trouble! I’ve used grommets before, so I’m not sure why they just would  Not Work. Luckily, Leimomi Oakes, the creator of the pattern, told me that hand-sewn eyelets would be period accurate. Whew! So that’s what I did! The sizing, assembly and everything else were great! I really enjoyed working with this pattern. 

All laced up!

There’s supposed to be extra lacing in the middle to tighten or loosen the corset, but I ran out of the lacing I already had. Oops!

I’m so glad that it’s finished. It was a great pattern and easy to make. And now I have a proper 1910s corset again! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Lady Edith’s Autumn Pallet

Although Downton Abbey as a series has ended, it remains a favourite with those who love historical dramas and gorgeous costumes. 

During the autumn season, I often think about Lady Edith’s lovely wardrobe which is predominantly (though not exclusively) in shades of peach and orange. 

So, in honour of autumn, Halloween and all things orange, here’s a look at some of Lady Edith’s best dresses. (I believe all the photos I found are copyrighted by ITV)

Lovely gold and sunset orange ensemble from one of the earlier 1910s seasons. 

Perfect! I love this simple, quintessentially 1920s boxy dress. 

This is a slight departure from the orange, but the lemon coloured blouse fits perfectly with the tweed of her suit. 

I love this blouse which both Edith and Sybil wear in seasons one and two. 

Again elegant, simple perfection. 

This has a more peachy hue to it and is an amazing ensemble with the blue accents in the coat. 

Brown! I love it! 

The piece de resistance in my opinion is this orange and black (or is it navy?) dress. Gorgeous!

I’m sure the colour choices for Edith’s clothes were partly due to the actresses colouring, and partly due to her character, but I think they are all lovely! 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Truly Victorian 1910s Skirt, and Autumn Glory

Last year I made a 1910s skirt using the pattern from Truly Victorian. As it was from 1911,mit was quite similar to another teens skirt I’d made the previous year, though it did turn out to be a little trickier. At first I wasn’t pleased with the results, though I know myself well, and am pretty sure it has more to do with my hasty methods than with the pattern itself. The thing which is the most troublesome to me is the front-side closure, which bulges a bit (but hopefully won’t when worn work a corset — which will be finished soon!).

The other day, however, my sister and I went to a park near her house to revel in the glorious autumn weather, and it turned into an impromptu photo shoot. I realise that I have never written a post about this skirt, though I do wear it often (its wonderfully comfortable). So here you are!

Autumn colours are my favourite to wear — could you tell?

Wearing a lovely knitted hat made by my friend Stacy. 

Climbing trees in a narrow 1910s skirt is so easy! ;)

I wore my lovely American Duchess Oxfords as well!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Wearing History 1910s Skirt

This is a follow-up of my summer post. I’ve finally finished one of my unfinished sewing projects! The skirt from the excellent Wearing History 1910s suit pattern.

I bought some rayon crepe awhile back, originally to use for a 1920s dress. The crepe was thicker, and the grey lighter than I was expecting and I didn’t think it would be suitable for a dress. It seemed a perfect option for a skirt.

It took me ages to figure out the front closure. I tried buttonholes, but that didn’t work with the fabric at all, so they're fake buttons with snaps underneath. It works beautifully!

Here are a few pictures of the finished product. My 1910s corset isn’t finished yet, so no authentic underthings yet. But that’s coming!

Yesterday I went up in the mountains with my mum and niece, so we were able to take some lovely photos up there too!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mystery and Paradox: Madeleine L'Engle

A few months back, I wrote a post about Dorothy L Sayers and a personal friend of mine, Amy Marsland. I would like to continue the theme of women who inspire me by featuring a post about Madeleine L'Engle.

Years ago my mother discovered 'Walking on Water', and which I've been meaning to read for a long time. I finally managed to do so this spring. I was absolutely inspired! There was something on nearly every page which I ended up underlining to remember later. Her views on artists and Christianity were very freeing to me. L'Engle has a frank and inquiring approach to faith. Above all, I love her acknowledgement that we don't know everything, and mystery and uncertainty is just a part of life (I loaned my copy to my sister, so can't pull out any quotes).

I then moved on to the 'Crosswicks Journals'. I've read 'A Circle of Quiet' and have started the next in the series. I look forward to learning and being enlightened more by this wonderful woman.

Recently, whilst trawling google for a nice photo of L’Engle, I happened upon an article by a woman who came to the conclusion that since Madeleine L’Engle didn’t live the perfect life she portrayed in her ‘journals’, her views and truths were flawed and no longer pertinent for this particular author. Ever since reading that Article, I’ve been thinking about it, and wondering if knowing more about the flaws in L’Engle’s life has altered my assessment of her, or lessened the impact she’s had on my life so far this year.

It hasn’t.

What has Madeleine L’Engle done for me this past year? She’s helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin as an author. Sure, I haven’t published a book *yet*. My blog and my instagram accounts aren’t followed by thousands of people. But I write every day. I want to be a published author. I want that to be my job. But I know I’ll write anyway, whether that ever happens or not.

I am happier in my religion. I can now acknowledge that there will always be doubts. There will always be mystery. Yet that strengthens my belief, instead of weakening it.

I feel that I understand my mother (a published author, biographer and poetess Susan Evans McCloud) much better. All creative people fabricate their own world around them, and in recognising that in Madeleine and in myself, I feel I understand my mother a lot better than I did before.

Life is full of paradox, pain, joy and pleasure. Accept it all. It will help you become a better person, and, more importantly, a better creator.

Thank you, Madeleine.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Summing up the Summer

Busy writing. I've written 27,360 words since the beginning of July. 

I've never liked summer weather. Anything warmer than 75 Fahrenheit is just too hot. Why does all my family have to live in Utah, then? Even having a birthday in August (and I quite like my birthdays) doesn't help.

Summers are inevitably busy. I was able to begin a few (read: too many) projects, and I have written quite a bit in my current first draft, so that's a relief. Here's a visual of some of the projects I've begun, and which I hope to finish if not by the end of this month, then by the end of October.

Working on a new 1910scorset pattern from Scroop Patterns

As well as. A 1920s robe de style-type dress from Past Patterns

As well as a 1910s suit pattern (see photo below) from Wearing History

I'm working on a 1910s blouse from Wearing History as well, but that's not pictured. That's a lot of sewing projects! Wish me luck!

Monday, August 7, 2017

If the shoe fits...Royal Vintage Shoes!

I still consider myself a novice in the historical costuming world. In the four years I've been sewing I've learned so much, and know I still have a lot to learn. One of my delightful discoveries is that the seasoned seamstresses out there are very generous, and happy to help those who, like myself, are still learning.

Sadly, like most passions, costuming takes quite a bit of money. For circa 1920s-1950s there are quite a lot of fairly close replicas out there for $40 or so. But they're cheaply made, and sometimes, quite uncomfortable.

The charming and talented Royal Vintage Shoes is the perfect answer to this. They collect perfect shoes from the '20s-'50s that are high quality and accurate. They also produce their own shoes which are *gorgeous*. I'll show an example of some below:

Eve Art Deco Sandals 

Marilyn 1940s Pumps

They are more expensive, undoubtedly. But they're worth it! They're made with real leather and the quality is undeniably excellent. There is also a lot of research behind them. Some other advantages include pre-order discounts (which is going on right now -- through the 10th of August) and layaway plans!

There's also an awesome give-away going on right now! 

Their joint company, American Duchess also has drool-worthy shoes from earlier eras, Renaissance through the 1910s. I know I'm preaching to the choir to those of you who visit this site who already historical costumers. But if there are any new-comers here, I hope you'll see the light as I eventually did, and start your collection of perfect, beautiful vintage shoes!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Favourite Era (with some extant examples)

I've recently joined a blogging challenge for August: Costume Blog Writing Month, to blog every day. I don't think I'll manage every single day in August (obviously, as I've already missed the first three days). But I will try to do several of the prompts.

The challenges for each day this month!

Yesterday's challenge was extant garment. I thought it would be fun to combine that with today's challenge: Fave Friday: Favourite Era. I've done several posts featuring my clothing collection, and several of my posts deal with my favourite era,  it this will be a fun opportunity to unabashedly focus on it.

Though I have a great love for many eras, my favourite is the 1910s. I don't know if this stems from my preoccupation with the First World War, or The Great War, as it is known in the UK (a fascination which has haunted me for over fifteen years) or if the fashion merits alone would have caught my eye.

The 1910s is often credited with drastic change from the beginning of the decade to the end. Certainly the early teens is softer, more feminine, with a hint of that Edwardian gentility still evident in the styles:

From The Modern Priscilla, January 1911

By the mid-1910s, the style had definitely loosened. It began to move away from the ornate, and a mannish military look was in evidence, which is no surprise, as War always influences fashion. 

Blouses and skirts. More simple and practical. From a 1915 Gimbel's Catalogue reprinted by Dover books. 

So, what is it about the 1910s that I love so much? I think it is that balance between femininity and practicality. It isn't over-the-top like late Victorian fashion, nor yet as utilitarian as the 1940s (also influenced by war). Plus, they knew how to use buttons in both a useful and decorative way. 

An original blouse from the mid to late 1910s, and a skirt from around 1917. 

Notice the lovely tassel detail from the blouse? Also my fabulous London Oxford's from American Duchess. 

Some more detail of the blouse. 

This is a dress I made from a reprinted 1917 or '18 dress pattern. 

A skirt and blouse I made from Wearing History patterns, paired with a modern cardigan.