Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

(image courtesy of
Study of the Madonna and Child with a Cat
c. 1478
Pen and ink on paper, 281 x 199 mm
British Museum, London

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Jane Austen's portrait, by her sister Cassandra Austen, watercolor and pencil (c.1810.)

 Jane Austen, b. December 16th, 1775, d. July 18th, 1817.  An English novelist (and my daughter's namesake) whose major works of fiction are Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.

Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Of snowy days and other things...

Today, is a "snow day"...which means schools are canceled... which means I get to stay home and play.  We have about 3 inches of snow (which, I'm sure doesn't seem like a lot to those of you who live a little further north than me, but...) In 3 inches of snow...where I live...that means roads are nearly impassible, and certainly people don't know how to drive on them!  So, I thought I would take this rare opportunity for play time, and catch you up on what's been going on around my neck-of-the-woods.

We've enjoyed playing in the snow.  Daddy helped Jane build a snow man.

Jane found the snow man's eyes, nose, mouth and scarf (one of Momma's scarves, of course.)

And Momma tought Jane how to make a Snow Angel.


In other news, Jane had her first Christmas program at school.  It was the cutest stinkin' thing I've seen in a long time.  I got the singing on video, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how to upload it to blogger.  My husband tells me that I have to wait until the DVD is full before we can "finalize" the videos and upload them to anything.  Boooo....where's the fun in that!?


News on the sewing-front:

My very lovely, and generous, Theater Club students rewarded me recently for directing their play by giving me a gift card to a local book store.  AND, well....I've had my eye on a certain sewing pattern book for a very long, of course, I ran straight to the store and snatched it up.  It's a modern garment sort of book, which is unusual for me, I know (my "modern" wardrobe is in desperate need of updating)...but I love the styles of the designer, Wenlan Chia. 

Her designs are simple and slightly structured, or sculptural, but very feminine as well.  The fabrics she recommends are luxurious, soft and natural....and I like the neutral color pallet.  Some of her desings have hints of vintage or antique elements in them.  Almost everything I've seen in her line, is actually "wearable" by the general public...not just made for the runway.

All that being said, the book has a cd full of Adobe uploadable and printable patterns, and the book itself has lovely illustrations and clear directions for sewing up the garments.  It's available on Amazon, of course.

  This is the first garment I have tried in the book.  It calls for silk-velvet, and silk chiffon.  I had neither, and didn't want to spend any money on the shirt, so I used what I had in my stash.  I don't think I went too far from the mark though. 

 I used cotton velvet and silk. 

The silk I used didn't drape the same as the chiffon, but I still like the look.  I did have to hand sew most of the neck-line, which took a lot longer than I thought it is a slippery little beast!

It's a very comfortable garment...almost tunic-like. 

This garment is next on my list...I have some linen stashed away that will be perfect for this top.


Last but not least, an update on the Regency Stays and on the long ago thought of "Marianne" Pelisse. 

I have my stays completely cut out for all three layers.  I've decided I am NOT going to hand sew the entire thing...I just don't have the mental energy or the time to do that, and besides...seriously now...who's going to see it to know, right?  I am going to hand stitch the gussets and the eyelets.  I'm just working myself up to that since there are eight gussets per layer, times three layers...twenty four gussets!...yikes!...and probably just as many, if not more, eyelets.

As for the know I haven't posted photos of the finished product.  Just call me a slacker.  But with the holiday season, it's been tough finding time to get all dolled up to do the deed.  Also, even though it is finished, I'm not completely satisfied with it.  I feel that the sleeves are too short, and that the collar is "messy" looking.  I hate to show stuff I've made that doesn't look like the way I envisioned it.  I really do think I need to add cuffs to lengthen the sleeves, and I desperately need to re-work the collar.  At this point though, I'm just burnt out on the whole thing, and a little bummed over the way it turned out.  So, for now, it is hanging in the back of my closet.  When I get over the mental stump that is keeping me from working on it, I will pull it back out and fix the problems.  No need to torture myself, right?

This might be my last post before the new year.  It's a busy Season, and we will soon be taking a familly trip to California to visit my in-laws.  In case I don't get the chance to say it again....


Merry Christmas! 
May God bless you all!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cats Playing Patty-cake, what they were saying...

My friend, Laura posted this on her Facebook page....and I laughed so hard watching this, that I couldn't help but to share the laugh with you.  Of course...I supposed you might have to be a cat person to get the humor in this...but then again, if you've EVER seen a cat in your life, then you know that this is EXACTLY how cats are.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Regency Stays

I'm in the beginning stages of making my first full length Regency Era Stays (also known as a corset in today's terms.)  I've made the Sense and Sensibility Short Stays before, and they are more of a transition piece.  But the ones I am attempting to make now, are full length...meaning bust to hip.  I'm using the Period Costume's for Stage and Screen book, as my guide.  There is a grafted pattern in the Regency section that I enlarged to fit my specific size. 

Regency era stays are not at all like what most people envision corsets to be.  Most people think of the Victorian silhouette, like this 1890's corset above from the Corsets and Crinoline site. The look I am achieving is must softer and more natural a only a general lift and separation to the bust.  If fit and made right, it is not at all painful to wear.

It will look something like this one from Mantua Maker patterns when I am done.

I started by drafting the corset pattern pieces onto Swedish Tracing Paper.  Then, I traced my pattern onto some cheap white cotton I had laying around.  This will be used only for my muslin mock-up, which is super important for fitting my stays.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than bad fitting stays or corsets.

I basted together my fabric, and added temporary boning and lacing, as well as a busk...made from an old paint stick...for fitting purposes.  Next, I tried on my mock-up....and with the help of my friend Natalie and the trusted experts from the Sense and Sensibility forum, my stays are fit to my body, and I am now ready to pick everything apart, use my mock-up for my pattern, and re-cut everything out of the fabric I will be permanently using for my stays.  I plan on using cotton and linen.  As the stays progress, I will keep you updated.

Sweet Success

Last night I baked up a batch of gingerbread cookies from THIS recipe.  They were quite tasty, and I'm a huge fan of gingerbread as a Holiday treat in general.  But, what I think makes gingerbread cookies so special is how you decorate them, and the time spent with friends and family doing the deed.

(Noah, stuffing as many marshmallows into his mouth as quick as he can before the decorating even begins!  Who can blame him!)

This morning, Natalie, from Zip-Zip's-Vintage-Sewing came over with her two little boys, Noah and Christopher for a cookie decorating play date.  We made royal icing from good 'ole Alton Brown's recipe. Then, we set out an assortment of sprinkles, chocolate candies, and marshmallows, gave each child (ummm...including ourselves!) a cookie, and let the decorating fun begin!

Jane's first cookie.

Christopher's first cookie.

Noah's first cookie.

Even my cat, Zimu wanted desperately to join in on the fun.  She looked longingly at the sprinkles.

Here we all are, up to our elbows in cookies and sweets.

To tell you the truth....I think there were more toppings eaten during the process then there were placed on the cookies...but, don't tell anyone.

Something interesting least to me and Natalie...was how different each person's cookies turned out.  It was almost as if we each had our own intrinsic philosophy on cookie decorating.

Noah shows off his finished cookies....with a little on his face, of course, to prove that they are indeed his.

Noah's philosophy of cookie decorating seemed to be "pile on as many embellishments as possible...especially marshmallows."

Christopher gingerly presents his creations.

Christopher's philosophy had more to do with color scheme, and abstraction...maybe taking after Picasso a little bit...

Jane is proud of her work.

Jane went for a slightly more realistic approach...and strove to make each cookie an individual.

These are some of my creations....

These are some of Natalie's work....

I get the feeling that the inhibitions of childhood made for better, more spontaneously creative cookies!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Look Momma!"

"I drew a picture of you!" said Jane.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

We woke up this morning to the first snow of the season.  Granted, it was just a dusting, with the usual layer of ice underneath, and all but that which was in the deepest shadows was melted by mid-day......but it was snow, none-the-less, and we were excited.

Myself, my husband, and Jane are all getting over a nasty case of playing in the snow wasn't an option for us.  But we did manage to scrounge up enough energy to bundle up, and head out to find our Christmas tree...we prefer fresh cut trees over fake ones...there's nothing like the fresh smell of a spruce tree.

We braved the cold weather, and found our tree pretty quickly.  Strapping the tree to the top of our car, we headed home for the fun part....decorating the tree.

Here's the beauty still wearing a bit of snow and ice on its branches.

Growing up, my parents had a Christmas tradition of buying (or making) a new ornament for each family member every year.  You can imagine how crowded our family Christmas tree was by the time my brother and I were seniors in high school.  The neat thing is, when we graduated from high school, we got to take all of our ornaments with us, so we would have something to put on our own trees.

Over the years, I've collected a few more ornaments from friends or from my students at school.  I love how each ornament represents a different chapter in my life story.  My tree is quite full.

We aren't necessarily carrying on the same customs that my parents did, but it's fun making new ones, and to see Jane find joy in these holiday traditions.  While we celebrate Christ every day of the year, Christmas is a special time of year in which we can celebrate his birth with festivities and pomp. Enjoy the season in all of its splendor.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Way Back Home

I know that this is a little different from what I normally post on, but I couldn't resist sharing this short film with you. It speaks to me, somehow, of taking a risk in life...I'm the farthest thing from a risk taker. Maybe it's just all a part of my current yearning for adventure. Maybe I just like the scenery. Either way, I think you will enjoy this. Make sure to blow it up really big on your screen, you won't want to miss a moment.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Sewing Society Paints Fans

Today, the Jane Austen Sewing Society put aside the fabric and needles for a change, and broke out the paints and brushes.  (We still had tea and scones, of course!)  We bought some inexpensive paper fans on-line, and our fearless leader, Natalie, of Zip-Zip's-Vintage-Sewing found some beautiful images of late 18th century, early 19th century paper fans on the Collection Database page of the The-British-Museum site to fuel our imaginations.

Here's one etching that I really liked, of Galatea, in a shell being pulled through the water by two dolphins.  I studied this image and used it for my own fan.

I also liked the delicate, border design of this fan and mimicked it.

Here's Natalie, sketching out the details on her fan.

Laura and Polly are hard at work painting their fans.  Drawing and painting such tiny, intricate designs takes a lot more concentration than one might think.

Kathleen was the first one us to finish her fan....actually TWO fans...and she chose a more contemporary, bright approach for hers...but this doesn't surprise me, her being a professional artist and all! ;-)

I started by sketching in the outlines of what I wanted.  Then, I used a white, black and gray wash on the figure of Galatia to give the image a little bit more contrast.

Here's a closer look of Galatia and those cute little pug-nosed dolphins.  Painting on the folds of the fan was a bit of a challenge.  Visually, you almost had to paint things askew in order for them to look correct once the folds were put back in place.

Here's a detailed picture of the flower clusters and wheat swag designs I painted on my fan.  So sorry the lighting is dark in the photo.  By the time I finished my fan, the daylight was fading fast.

Finally, the finished product.  I used a combination of acrylic and water color paints to complete my fan.  I noticed, after I had already started to paint, that the center medallion is, well....not quite centered...but there was nothing that could be done at that point.  The back side of this fan is still white paper.  I am wondering now if Regency fans would have been decorated on both sides or not.  If I decide to paint the other side, then I will update you on that.

Everyone's fans were looking lovely when I left the Sewing Society this morning.  We weren't able to stay to see each other complete them because Natalie's kitchen is under renovation and the floor sanding workmen arrived unexpectedly toward the end of our meeting.  Not fun for poor Natalie.  I am eager to see the results of all of their artistic endeavors.  I do have one more paper fan that was ordered for me...I had so much fun painting this first one, that I am excited about the prospect of decorating another!