Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Life Goal... er, Obsession

I have a horridly ambitious goal in my life. Maybe some of you can help me achieve it. I want to learn every traditional form of handwork and sewing known to womankind.

It's been my passion for years. I never sit down to watch a movie without something to keep my hands busy. I look forward to car trips for the guilt-free, uninterrupted hours I can spend on my projects. I'll even drive far out of my way to learn something special (this week, I'm headed 1.5 hours north to learn Bobbin Lacing; my 16th birthday present was a several-hours trip to spend a day with a pattern drafter).
Here's where you come in: Do you know any interesting arts you'd be willing to teach me? I have never yet found a person to teach me tatting -- that's probably at the top of my list -- but I have a hunger for anything and everything fiber related.

You also come in on the second, more important half. I dearly pray that these arts don't die out. I would love to teach anyone anything I know. I'm not an expert, but we can practice together.

Pictures stolen from various sources. The photos themselves link back to the original location.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Jacksonville Civil War Event

It's taken me all week, but finally I get to share with you: My very first, in period dress, Civil War event!

I'm so glad I took the time to do everything correctly. It made a huge difference. I saw so many women miserable in polyester dresses and other horridly inaccurate garments that were neither attractive nor comfortable in the 95+ degree heat. My many layers of cotton kept me cool-ish, as long as I was moving or in the shade.
Before I explain everything, I have to give a HUGE thank you to Sarah Jane of Romantic History, who graciously let me borrow her stack of patterns and surprised me with the lovely sunbonnet. I would have been completely lost without you!

The picnic tables became our favorite spot.

I have to tell you a secret... I am a world-class procrastinator. It was a joke between me and my husband (and before him, my roomates) that I would never start a paper more than 24 hours before it was due. That isn't entirely true, but it was true enough to become a stereotype. This dress was no exception. I took my sweet time making the undergarments: a seam here, a hem there, "there's still x days left before the event"... all the way up until Thursday evening when I realized that, wow! The day had almost arrived!

Shaune made it onto the battlefield (He's the 2nd from the wagon, with the leaning gun)...

I fit the lining Thursday evening. I started cutting the fashion fabric Friday at 8:30, only moments after my husband walked out the door for work. From there, I worked like crazy, only pausing when absolutely necessary. The dress involved a ton more hand sewing than I'm used to -- the center front has 15 pair of hooks-and-eyes, which I stitched over the course of a movie (Les Choristes, in French -- my favorite!). By lunchtime, I had a bodice front and back mostly put together and sleeves in progress. Shaune helped me when he came home, and we decided that the sleeves really needed epaulets to make them more interesting... one more project, but a worthwhile one.

But he didn't make it off. Boo :(

Evening found me with a bodice, epaulets attached, and panels cut for the skirt. I sent my hubby to Martial Arts class so I could have another 3 hours of uninterrupted sewing. I think we ate dinner, but I'm not certain. If we did, I certainly didn't stop for long! I gave up around 1am with a completed skirt and a nearly completed bodice. I bound the edges and whipped the two halves together over breakfast. There were still safety pins, but by golly! I was fully dressed by the time we reached the event!

Aren't we a lovely pair? The banjo always draws a crowd.

I'm hooked. I spent the entire event staring at other ladies' gowns, deciding where mine needs finessed and designing my next gown. I believe we'll be camping out at the next event we go to, sometime in August, so a second dress (or at least a second chemise and some more petticoats) is a must. Although, I do believe that next time... I might start at least 2 days before the event :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It Feels Like Home

I've noticed something: I live a busy life. We're always going somewhere, doing something, rarely home for more than a few days -- and if we are at home, we have company. It's a fun life, but ever so exhausting. Part of the problem is that home isn't "home," at least not in my heart. My heart belongs far, far away... and I got to go back this past week for my cousin's graduation.

My dad grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the top of Squirrl Hill. My grandparents are buried there; my cousins still live there (well, a few hills over); my earliest memories are there. Even though I've lived in central Illinois since I was a small girl, every important event was marked by a trip to the mountains. Mom's family lives in or near the mountains, too. Corn fields offer no comparison in terms of beauty, mystery, and peace. Mountains signify home in my heart... especially the ones around Pittsburgh (And your farm, Erika, we just don't get there very often!)

So, I was thrilled when things fell into place for Shaune and I to go with my parents back to Pittsburgh for my cousin Beth's graduation. Shaune's never been out East. While it's always special to revisit home on your own, it is even more special to be able to share that experience with one who's never seen it before.

We visited my grandparents...

Rode the Incline (like a trolly that goes up the side of the mountain)...

Looked over the skyline...

Climbed a mountain to find a waterfall (in a skirt!)...

Played weird instruments (this is a ukelele banjo. I have no idea anything about it)...

And even punched statues (oh to be a 10 year old boy!)...

It's weird how much driving certain streets, climbing certain hills, seeing certain buildings can make a place that has never been "home" feel so much like where I belong. One of these days, we'll live out East. One of these days I'll say good-bye to corn fields and flat and buy a piece of property halfway up a mountain, and home can finally be where both my heart and my body are found!

PS: I DID get all my Civil War sewing completed -- last minute -- and had a total blast at the reenactment this past weekend. More on that when I catch a minute; we have friends in from Liberia, Africa this week and a lot of events to attend with them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Draw Me Nearer

I am thine, O Lord, I have heard thy voice,
and it told thy love to me;
but I long to rise in the arms of faith
and be closer drawn to thee.

Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
to the cross where thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
to thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to thy service, Lord,
by the power of grace divine;
let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
and my will be lost in thine.

O the pure delight of a single hour
that before thy throne I spend,
when I kneel in prayer, and with thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend!
Hymns have a way of touching my heart in a way that words can not. They take what I'm feeling and express it much more eloquently than I can pull off. We sang "Draw me Nearer" this morning and the refrain just keeps playing through my head, a constant background to my day. It makes me think.
This song has it right in one ever so important way: God draws US nearer. He is constant; He is unchanging and unmoving. I'm the one that drifts away on the current of distractions. He stands there, a Rock for me to cling to if only I remember to do so.
He's a fisherman, too... casting out his line to draw us in. Or a lover, drawing the beloved in for a hug. He's where he's always been... I'm the one that walks away.
Draw me nearer, Blessed Lord, this day and every!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Civil War Wardrobe: Building Up Correctly

I'm a classic, textbook perfectionist. There's no point doing something if you're not going to do it right... the first time. So, when we decided to take up Civil War reenacting, I briefly considered shortcuts to getting me dressed. But the more I thought, the more I realized: since I know what's right and how to do it, why not do it right from the very beginning?!

Tada! My very first corset and chemise, proudly displayed by the headless Ellinor. (I would have displayed it myself but 1. the chemise is REALLY short and 2. Hubby's not here to lace me in). There's still a few finishing touches to accomplish but overall I'm THRILLED! Everything's boned with cable ties cut to fit. The front is hook-and-eyes on the underside instead of a busk. To be honest, I think I like corsets. I wore it around the house for a while last night and didn't have to tug at it once. It fits me better than Ellinor because I squish in places that she doesn't :)
My petticoat is cut out and stitched together. I plan on gauging it to the waistband in the car this weekend -- we've got a 12 hour drive to Pittsburgh, PA, to attend my cousin's graduation. We're going with my parents and my 10 year old brother. I've already claimed the back seat of the minivan all to myself so I can spread out my sewing. Privledges of being the oldest kid :)
Now that I've laid a firm foundation (haha... sorry) I can start on the dress -- the best part! For inpiration, I'm looking at this dress here:
I love it! Gathered bodice, little collar, etc etc etc. It's elegant without being overwhelming. The only thing I don't like is the sleeves -- I've never worn big sleeves and they intimidate me. I think I'm going to make narrower sleeves like these dresses here:

Both examples show buttons up the front. I haven't decided yet if I'll do buttons or stick to hook-and-eyes this time. But I do know I'll be putting a pretty bow at the front collar!
I'll have 3 sewing days next week to whip this out. I think I can do it. Here's a teaser on the fabric. I think I'll add a few details with a dusty rose colored ribbon, too, with a white cotton collar and maybe white cuffs, depending on what I'll have time for.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pittsfield, IL Lincoln Days

This weekend I attended my first Civil War reenactment :)

We didn't dress up this time; we went in our regular 2010 clothing to meet up with our friend's unit and hang around with them for the day to get a better understanding of all that goes on. It was a blast!

Pittsfield is a little teeny tiny town located over by the Illinois River just off I-72, 30 mi west of Jacksonville. But from where the event was located (at the lake), it may as well have been untouched frontier. The lake glistened, the prarie rolled, and the camps were thoroughly convincing (and the cars were hidden out of sight). It was such a pleasant location! Erik, our friend and the leader of the Il. 12th Calvary, told us that at night, you can't see a single light outside the camp. Although we couldn't stay that late, I can only imagine how beautiful it would be. Pittsfield is a fairly small event (according to those who know better and told me so), but can't be matched in terms of beauty of location.

We arrived just in time for the Ladies Tea, where the women all sat under the big tent drinking tea and sewing "quiet dolls" or "heritage dolls," which are made out of a bit of lace and a regular handkerchief. They're beautiful in their simplicity. You gather a head along one side and stitch a bit of lace along the opposite side for the bottom of the skirt. With a little bit of ribbon, you tie around the "body" to make the arms distinct. My camera's dead right now or I'd take a picture of mine. THIS is the kind of toy my children will have.

After that was the battle. I'm not going to lie -- this part bored me. I spent the time reading Mrs. Clark's "Skirting the Issue" instead of paying attention. The Union won. :)

It was a lovely day all around. I feel much more confident about my in-process wardrobe after seeing the WIDE range of accuracy at Pittsfield. Some people took it very seriously. Some showed up in a purchased-off-line Scarlet costume because their husbands are involved. Everyone else was scattered along that wide spectrum. Even if I DO end up in tennis shoes in Jacksonville, I'll fit in just fine.

I'm excited to meet more units in J-ville. Although the 12th Calvary guys were really great, their wives mostly do it for the camping and the companionship while their men play war. They aren't interested in researching civilian life or women's fashions the way that I am. While we'll be with them for at least part of J-ville (the men have been kind enough to outfit Shaune with loaner gear) I don't think this is our "home" group. If any of you are in a unit and will be in Jacksonville, I'd love to meet up with you and your group!

I think I'm hooked :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Perfect Storm of Sewing

I'm so overwhelmed this week. I'm certifiably in over my head with fabric, thread, pins, needles... you name it, it's lying around my house. I don't think I've **ever** had this many sewing projects going on at once, and that's saying something!

Last week I finally had a chance to go visit my mom and have her wrap me up to make my duck tape dress form. I named her Ellinor. She currently lives in the middle of the living room because my sewing room is unaccessable. (It desperately needs blitzed, but who has time with this much sewing going on!)

Ellinor is modeling Project 1, a summer sundress that is turning out horribly. It's the Retro Butterick 4790 pattern: the Walk-Away Dress. The waist is at least 2 inches too low, the whole bodice is too wide (except at center front where it doesn't meet), and just... blah! Believe it or not the back looks worse. I won't scar your eyes with that photograph. So, Project 1 was supposed to be completed by next weekend June 11 to wear to my cousin's graduation. Instead, it's getting shelved indefinately. I won't tell you how much precious time has already been wasted on this creation. I can fix it, I know I can... in time.
Deadline: June 11, but postponed
Projects 2 and 3 are much more appealing, but also carry a higher risk because they're not for me. These two Liberian suits belong to my pastor's wife. She's a tiny, tiny woman... these garments are NOT. You could fit her, and me, and probably her 12 year old daugher into each top. We talked about these alterations way, way, way back in January when I got home from Liberia, but things got set on the back burner until last week. On each of the 2 tops I have to 1) remove the sleeves 2) take in the side seams by a lot 3) alter the sleeves to fit the new armhole and 4) reattach the sleeves. The skirts need shortened and tightened. Easy enough....
Deadline: June 16.
Then, ahah! Sewing that is so far going well! And yet, there is so much further to go. Shaune and I are trying our hands at Civil War reenacting for the first time this summer. Although we're borrowing clothing for him, I'm making my wardrobe from scratch... inside out. Project 4 is the chemise, which is done except for hem. Project 5 is the corset, in progress. Yes, I'm marking the lines with pink chalk. It's all I could find! I don't really like this pattern -- the gussets aren't playing nicely for me. I think next time I'll get a many-piece corset pattern for better fit. This is Simplicity 2890.

Projects 6 - 8 aren't even started yet, beyond the fabric for 6 being purchased and washed. #6: petticoat #7: dress (kinda important) #8: find appropriate shoes. I know that shoes aren't exactly a sewing project, but they'll make-or-break the outfit. I've been looking at all the thrift stores eacy week and haven't found anything even CLOSE. I'd HATE to go through so much work and then end up ruining the look with modern sneakers!

Deadline for 4-8: June 19 for the Jacksonville reenactment

So if I don't get around to posting or commenting over the next two weeks, you'll know where I am... rapidly sewing to the best of my ability.

PS: My husband is literally a saint. He's putting up with this like a dream come true, even rubbing my shoulders when I start to freak. I hope God throws a party in Heaven for all the husbands whose loony wives sew. They've earned it.