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 bronchitis...so 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.
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.
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!
Caspar David Friedrich - The Wanderer Above the Mists - 1818
Every year around this time, when the skies shadow over with clouds and the trees are laid bare, I have this inexplicable urge to come out of my Hobbit hole and go on some sort of grand adventure...some sort of wandering journey. Of course, this is probably the busiest season of the entire year, so when would I really be able to get away, and...well...where would I go for that matter. But, none-the-less, when the Autumn season arrives I itch to have a purpose greater than my daily routine. I lose all ability to concentrate, and I long to stray from this place.
Since I'm not usually able...hey who am I kidding, since I'm NEVER ABLE to exit the daily grind....I always end up being prone to day dreams, and I find my nose (more than usual) stuck in a book full of adventure, heroism, and bravery. One of my all time favorites is J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. I think I've read it close to ten times now....and I'm ....errmmm...reading it again.
One sort of interesting thing though about reading it this time....I have a real life pictorial reference to help me along in my imaginary journey. My dear friend Laura, over at Janus-at-the-door, has been recently posting pictures of her trip to England. Take a look at some of her images, HERE, and you will see what I mean....
Farewell we call to hearth and hall!
Though wind may blow and rain may fall,
We must away ere break of day
Far over wood and mountain tall.
To Rivendell, where Elves yet dwell
In glades beneath the misty fell,
Through moor and waste we ride in haste,
And whither then we cannot tell.
With foes ahead, behind us dread,
Beneath the sky shall be our bed,
Until at last our toil be passed,
Our journey done, our errand sped.
We must away! We must away!
We ride before the break of day!
- Frodo, in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring
I've had it in mind for a while now to make my daughter Jane a cap that she can wear for late 18th c. / early 19th c. reenactments. When I saw a girls cap for sale at the 18th Century Market Fair of Locust Grove, I thought, for a brief moment, that I might just buy one instead of making it. However, when I saw that they were asking $20 for it, I thought differently. So, using some scrap white linen that I had hidden away in my stash, I set about making Jane's cap.
The first thing I did was to consult the ladies on the Sense and Sensibility Forum. They are always a treasure trove of historical costuming knowledge. Suzi Clarke, a reputable costumier from the UK, directed me to the Kannik's Korner pattern image, here. Look at View A, Round Eared Cap. That's the style I was going for. She also guided me as to how to cut the fabric to get the shape I wanted. You can see the layout above...
I decided early on that I wanted to hand sew the cap. Hand sewing is, after all, the method that would have been used during the Regency era. I started by sewing up the ties, and then turning them right side out, as seen in the above image. Then, I hemmed and gathered the front ruffle, and sandwiched it between the inner and outer layer of the brim. The brim is the only part of the cap that is essentially, "lined."
I also placed the ties inside of this "sandwich", and then did a sort of running, back-stitch to sew up the top edge and sides.
Once done, I turned the brim right side out, and folded in the seam allowance on the bottom edge. Here it is before the main portion of the cap was sewn on.
I gathered the top, or arched side of the main part of the cap, and then created a casing with strings that tie at the center bottom edge. The strings are used to adjust the width of the bottom, neck area. Once these tasks were done, I placed the gathered edge of the cap into the two layers of the brim, and whip-stitched these three layers together. All that was left to do, was to draw-in the adjustable strings, and tie the cap under Jane's chin.
It turned out to be a little too big for her tiny head. But, I'm sure that this is the most practical approach as she now has room to grow into it. It's also not quite as round eared as I would have liked it to be, but all-in-all, it's not a bad looking cap. I might do a bit of simple embroidery on it somewhere....what do you think?
Well....the lights have dimmed, the cast has gone home, and the show is over. Remember my post, HERE about how I was up to my ears in costumes for the play I was directing? This weekend, we ran two shows...one for the actors' fellow students at school....and one for their families and friends. Both shows were an absolute success. I couldn't have been blessed with a more creative and hardworking cast.
Even though I made all of the costumes, the kids helped to build the set. They did such a creative job on this, with such a small budget. I provided sketches and outlines of what was to be done, as well as all of the materials, and they set to work in groups creating flowers, trees, bushes, stone archways and village huts. Unfortunately, with all of the madness and craziness of the past 48 hours, I was only able to sneak in this one shot of the set just minutes before they went on stage. If I can find some other pictures, or maybe even a video (that would be nice, wouldn't it) from some of the parents, I will post those later.
I am so proud of my crazy cast. They spent hours, during school, after school, and at home, over the past two months practicing their lines, memorizing when to speak, and how to move on stage. In all reality...acting like wild animals probably wasn't too hard for them!
Here's a slightly more serious image of the cast. There were, rightfully so, a lot of proud parents in the audience.
Let me introduce you to the cast members. (Stage names, only, of course.) In the back row, we have our elephants (who also played the part of leaf cutter ants, wolves and monkeys...they were quite versatile.) In the front, we have Tabaque (The Jackel), Toucan, Baloo (The Bear), Bagheera (The Panther), Shere Kahn (The Tiger), Kaa (The Boa Constrictor...whose costume is not in the picture, because it's ten feet long!)
Here you have the wolf pack, from left to right: Big Gray Wolf, Ashanti (Father Wolf), Yellow Wolf, Little Gray Brother Wolf, Red Wolf, Brown Wolf, Akela (in black, Head of Wolves), Raksha (Mother Wolf), and White Wolf. They were my favorite to watch...I wish you could have seen how they moved on stage...but you can kind of get the sense of their movement from the way they are standing in the picture.
These sassy ladies were our monkeys. They don't have names, except the one on the right was our monkey queen, Louise. They were quite feisty and impish...very funny.
Last but not least, certainly, we have our villagers. Their costumes were my favorite to make. I absolutely love the sari material. We didn't have enough boys in the play...so ALL of the villagers are girls. Thankfully, four of them were, um, "man" enough to play male roles. From left to right, we have: Raja, Shantae, Nubia, Mowgli's Mother, Mowgli (the star of the show), Mowgli's Father, Bhagwan (Village Leader), and Niger.
One of the first questions asked at the end of the play was, "So, what's in store for next year?" I couldn't help but laugh at that. Give me a few months to recover from this year's play and I might be able to think about next year!
Even though I enjoyed the cast and loved the creativity of making the costumes and the set, directing this puppy was hard work, and took up a lot of extra time at home during the evenings and on weekends. At times...many times, actually...it was like herding cats. I am glad to finally be able to rest, spend time with my family, and maybe get a little historical clothing sewing done. I've still yet to take pictures of me in my "Marianne" Pelisse, nor have I begun my quintessential "white" Regency Gown. (Fezziwig's Ball is coming up in a month! I must have something to wear for this!) I'm also thinking about making my daughter Jane a cap to go with her Regency dress. You see...I never stop...but at least I enjoy what I do.