Sunday, January 30, 2011

Small things...

There isn't much to report on here in Jane-land.  I'm still waiting to sew together my muslin for the Swing Dress Sew-along.  I've put it on hold this week, because I'm very busy costuming my school's High School Musical production of Cinderella.  No....I'm not making every costume.  I'm mostly altering costumes we've rented out from a local theater.  There is a slight chance I will be making a "regency inspired" gown for one of Cinderella's dresses, using the Sense and Sensibility Elegant Ladies Closet drawstring pattern.

All images that are not my own were taken from the V&A site.

Yesterday, I got together with the lovely ladies of the Jane Austen Sewing Society, and we discussed Georgian Jewelry.  Natalie, our ever impressive, research hound discovered a hoard of information and images on the web about what type of jewelry was worn in the late 18th century, early 19th century, who wore it, and how it was worn. 

What was most fascinating to me, was how politics played such a big role in what kind of jewelry was being worn.  I'm not the historical researcher that Natalie is, so I will probably royally mess this up.... but basically, before the french revolution "bling" was in.  Ladies were wearing necklaces, earrings, bracelets, broaches and hair adornments in just about every stone, precious metal and jewel you could think of.  Certain jewels came in and out of fashion, of course, but the over all consensus was, the more jewelry you had on you, the better. 

But, after the french revolution, on the European mainland especially, wearing a lot of jewelry was a sure sign of your aristocratic importance, and therefore brought about your death.  Also, around this time, was the discovery of the Italian city of Pompeii.  The Roman classical look was suddenly all the rage, and coral, pearls, cameos, and other, simple yet elegant items were seen worn amongst the gentry.  There was an over-all softening of what was considered beautiful.
During my college years, I took a trip to Italy, and I remember walking into a jewelery store just outside of the Pompeii archaeological site at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius.  The jewelry store had been there since the discovery of Pompeii, and was famous for it's coral jewelry, and replicas of jewelry that had been discovered in and around the city.  I bought a pair of earrings there...I can definitely understand the appeal that the ladies of the Georgian era had for the Roman jewelry.

You can see the coral strand that this lady is wearing.  The coral jewelry really appealed to me, and that's what I decided to replicate at yesterdays meeting.

It wasn't hard to find coral beads in my local craft store.  I also had a cameo that used to belong to my's from the 30's I believe, and made of resin (so it certainly isn't what a Georgian cameo would have been made of, but it will do just fine for me.) 

My friend Laura, brought all sorts of torture devices for bending wire....

But in the end, I didn't use wire at all, I went with silk thread.  I didn't finish my necklace, but you can see where I'm going with it.  I'm alternating the larger beads with the smaller beads, making only one strand, and letting the cameo dangle as a pendent in the center. 


And on a final note, the annual Jane Austen Festival of Louisville is looming on the horizon.  JASNA Louisville has made the first announcement for the event.  Personally, I am looking forward to the archery event.  I guess this means I need to kick it into gear with my quintessential white gown! 


held at
1790 National Historic Landmark, Historic Locust Grove (
Louisville, Kentucky

sponsored by
Greater Louisville Region
Jane Austen Society of North America
Event will feature:
"Cheer from Chawton" an Austen family theatrical by Karen Eterovich
Regency Emporium
Regency Style Show
Four-Course Afternoon Tea
Entertainment-duel between gentlemen, live music, ladies archery competition & more
a Grand Ball & more!
General Admission $10; ball, tea & workshops additional fee. Reservations begin June 1 at
Please contact Bonny Wise, Regional Coordinator for information about hotels, traveling, etc at

Oh, and P.S. - Our little Jane Austen Sewing Society just might have a role in this year's Jane Austen Festival!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

1930's Dress

I guess you could say I'm getting a little impatient with the slow pace of the Swing Dress Sew Along.  I'm determined to keep up with that pace though, no matter how much I want to zip through the project.  I know that slowing down, and doing each step with a group of people will teach me a bunch.  Sooooo.... since I can't zoom through a 1940's dress, I stepped back in time a decade and decided to try my hand (at my own pace) at making a 1930's inspired dress.

I've been fascinated recently by the styles of the 1930's.  They were glamorous, feminine, and yet practical all rolled into one.

I 'Binged' 1930's fashion and browsed through the hundreds of images that were brought up trying to find inspiration.  I wasn't disappointed.  The real problem was choosing the style I liked best.  I took bits and pieces of different images, some actual vintage dresses and others modern interpretations, and threw them all together.  At this point, I couldn't tell you where I got any of these images, except for 'Bing' sorry if these images belong to someone who doesn't want me to have them.  I'll remove them if they do.

This Dress and the others above were a few of them.
So, with so much inspiration, it wasn't hard for me to sketch out an idea.  I started with a mock-up, fit it to myself, and then got out some green rayon challis I had in my stash. 

The skirt was the easiest part.  I used the Sense and Sensibility Swing Dress skirt
pattern and then altered it a bit to give the bottom part of the skirt more of a 30's pleated flare.

I drafted the bodice.  This part was tons of fun to me.  I love being able to play around with shapes and measurements, and figuring out how flat pieces of fabric will look once they are draped over a curved body.
I used three vintage buttons I had on hand.  These are my favorite part of the outfit if I'm honest!

I'm really pleased with the cut of a 1930's dress.  The position of the waist of the dress being a 'natural' one suits my figure, I think.  I also like where the hem lies just below the knee. 

The combination of the natural waist, and low hem, makes my legs look longer in my opinion...always a good thing, if you are as short as I am!

To make it appear a bit more artsy-modern, I've pared it with a leather belt and a sweater from Fossil.  I think I might have a bit of a crush on the 1930's...there might be more dresses in the future!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Swing Dress: Update #2

It's time for the latest Swing Dress news.

My Sense and Sensibility Swing Dress Pattern was an "e-pattern", which, for those of you who don't know, means that it was less expensive than a regular paper pattern bought in a store or through the mail.  It also means that I had to put it together after printing it off of my computer.  This isn't as daunting of a task as it might seem.  Basically, just print off a test page first to make sure the size is printing at 100%.  Then, print off every thing else, match up all of the pieces, like a puzzle, and tape them together.

The next step was to cut out the pattern at the largest size, so that I had all of the other sizes available should I ever need them.  I could have also left the pieces all together on the large sheet of paper, which I sometimes do, and then proceed with the third step, which was to trace and cut out MY size onto Swedish Tracing paper. Either way, I now have my size available to use, and the other sizes are still undamaged.

Finally, I placed the tracing paper pattern I had just cut out in my size onto some cheap, white muslin, and copied and cut out the muslin pattern pieces.

I now have my muslin, mock-up ready to go.  I will sew it all together next and fit it to myself.  Not exactly exciting stuff...but at least I'm keeping up with the Sew-Along.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Birthday to OUR Jane!

Happy Birthday to our precious Jane!

Four years ago, on January 17th, my daughter was born. It seems like it was only yesterday that she was a small, round, bald, little baby, like this.

Now, she's a beautiful little 4 year old girl.

We had a birthday party for her yesterday. It was a Princess and Knight (or Prince) theme.  Several family members and friends joined us in the celebration. 

We feasted on cupcakes, and ice cream, as well as many other goodies and snacks.   The knights decorated their shields with their family crests. 

There was a pin the fire on the dragon game, and a bowl of rice served as a buried treasure game...with hidden jewels being comprised of jelly beans, plastic diamonds, and gold (chocolate) coins. 

The girls and boys alike dressed up in their finest Princess and Knight outfits (I made the knight tunics.)

But the biggest surprise of the day...and the most fun...was the castle we set up in our basement. I used some of the props from the play I directed in the fall, and built a cardboard and Styrofoam castle for the kids to play in. A few streamers, some drapy fabric and pillows, a box of dress up cloths and stuffed dragons and horses, and this was a castle fit for any Princess or Knight.
Our little princess had a lovely birthday! We couldn't ask for a more perfect blessing than our Jane!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Swing Dress Sew Along: Update #1

Well, it's time to reveal my fabric of choice for the Swing-Dress-Sew-Along.  Originally, I had thought of using some Black Rayon I had in my stash (which I still think would make a very classy dress.)  But, Hancock's had Rayon Challis on sale this weekend, and I saw an adorable "slightly" 40's (maybe a bit more 30's) looking forest green Rayon, printed with little white flowers, that was calling my name.  It breathed spring to me, and seeing as how English garden/floral motifs have been all the rage in the fashion world recently, and how I'm dying for winter to be over and it's barely even started, how could I resist!

By the way, if you haven't discovered Rayon Challis really must.  It's a dream to wear!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Regency Stays Update #1

I've been working on my Regency Stays over the past several weeks.  They are slowly coming along. 

During my trip to California, I hand sewed in all of the bust and hip gussets.  It took me a total of about 6 hours of work to sew in all three layers of gussets.

Today I was off work because of another snow day.  So I spent about another 3 hours working on my stays.

I added a busk pocket to the inside front layer.  The busk is the wooden "stick" that fits down the front of the stay.  It helps with posture, separates and helps to lift the bust, and creates a smooth front section area.  Without it, everything sags.  Not a pretty picture, huh?!  I created a pocket with an opening at the top, because the book recommended it so that that the busk can be removed if the the stays need to be washed.

I ironed and starched everything, and pinned together all of the bust gussets.
I sandwiched together the three layers at the front-side seams, and stitched, using the same seam construction technique that I did on my friend Laura's Regency Round-Robe.

Then I did the same with the side-back seams.

Once all of the side seams were together and opened up, I stitched "in the ditch" for all side seams and gusset seams.

The next thing I did was to pencil in all of the boning channels and stitch the three layers together.  This took a LONG time, because there are 14 channels. (There are 4 more for the back panels that I didn't do today.)

I really like the "quilted" look of the channels.  Originally, I had thought about using a contrasting color of make it "prettier," but in the end, I thought that white thread was a more wise choice.  I intend on wearing this under a white gown, and I didn't want to risk the thread color showing through the gown.

Lastly, I attached the straps using a zig-zag stitch.  I don't feel guilty at all about not hand sewing the whole piece.  No one is going to see this on me when I do reenacting.

There is still much to do... putting the boning in, finishing off the edges with bias binding, and eyelets...a lot of eyelets!  But I feel like this project is progressing nicely, and it won't be long before it's done, and I can proceed with the much anticipated "white gown."

Swing Dress Sew-Along

I'm going to attempt my first "Sew-Along."

Image of Swing Dress Pattern cover from Mrs. Chancey's Sense and Sensibility Website.

I have Jennie Chancey's 1940's-Swing-Dress-Pattern.  So, when I heard of Casey's Swing Dress Sew-Along over at Elegant-Musings, I decided I would join in on the fun.  I think it will make a great project for these cold winter months.  I already have some Rayon that I think will be perfect for the dress.  As the project, and Sew-Along progress, I will keep you updated.

Beginning date for the project was yesterday, January 11th (so I'm already a day late).  The Sew-Along ends February 28th.... plenty of time, right!

Monday, January 10, 2011

T-shirt Bags

This is such a fun, quick way to make a bag! I just thought I would share it with all of you. I was thinking about how Martha says you "could" zig-zag stitch the cut edges...this would be necessary or else the side and shoulder seams would rip apart. So easy, though...makes me want to see what else I can come up with using old clothing.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Block Printed Bed Cover

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was from my parents.

 They ordered me this Indian Block Printed Bed Cover from Jas. Townsend and Sons, Inc. HERE.  The plan is to use it for reenactments, but for now, it looks lovely on my bed.

I'm in love with the vivid colors and sinuous designs.  I was a little apprehensive about liking what I would get, because it says on the sight that you don't get to choose your color scheme.  But really, it's gorgeous, and I'm sure I would think the same about any cover I got.  I studied printmaking in college, and it's one of my favorite art forms.  It's so primitive in nature, but creates such fabulous design and texture.  Combine printmaking with anything from India, and I'm one happy girl.

...and this kitty is one happy kitty...

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Trains, Planes and Automobiles

I really hope your Holidays were as good as mine.  Jane's smile says it all.  We are exhausted though, having traveled from Here to There and Back Again.  We took nearly every mode of transportation possible, and the jet lag is still hanging on for dear life.
We flew out on Christmas Day, and returned New Year's Day...which were surprisingly pleasant days to travel on due to the lack of people out and about.  The airport/airline employees were actually quite jolly and fairly cheerful (at least on Christmas) and security was a breeze to slip through.

We arrived in a "slightly" sunny California, and the cool 54 degrees seemed downright warm compared to the single digits we had just come from.  One of my favorite parts of traveling to California during December (besides picking the-best-oranges-anyone's-ever-eaten off the tree in my in-law's back yard) is the chance to see green foliage again after about two months of seeing dead grass and brown, bare branches.
(Brothers at Breakfast)

It was great seeing family members that we hadn't seen in nearly 3 years.  Jane met her cousin Natalie for the first time, and the two (who are just under 2 years apart from each other in age) got along so well. 
They called each other 'friend'...
...made brownies together...

...and dressed up in their finest.
We traveled into San Francisco, which is a city I adore.  I always wish I had more time to spend there. As we drove across the Bay Bridge, the City was floating in a cloud of mist.  We could see nothing but fog until the bridge twisted into the center of the city, at which moment the clouds lifted and towering glass buildings leaned over us clinging onto the hillside.   
We took a boat out on the Bay and traveled to Sausalito where we ate lunch at a sidewalk cafe before heading back into the city.
Let's not forget to mention, of course, that we passed the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz on the way there.
Once we debarked, we walked from Pier 1...
...all the way down to Pier 39, and "Fisherman's Wharf", where we saw the infamous sea lions lounging lazily on their floating docks.  We rounded out our long day with a view of this beautiful sunset and a hearty Italian meal in "Little Italy."
The rest of the week was spent visiting old friends and spending quality time with Jane's grandparents; eating together, doing crafts, playing games and traveling to the name a few things.
The jet lag was definitely worth it!