Thursday, December 31, 2015


2015 was such a crazy, full year! Some of it was bad (like one of my classes this semester, with a teacher who was hell bent on trying to fail everyone) but most of it was good (like finally upgrading to a baby grand piano!) I didn't do a lot of costuming this year (just the 1920s ensemble early in the year, the sheer Regency bonnet and red reticule over the summer, and a bit of patterning and fixing/re-fitting here and there throughout the year), and I only sewed a few everyday wearable items, but I still managed to somehow average more than three finished items per month! The majority of this was weaving and miscellaneous doll and craft projects. The weaving and small projects were easier to manage without neglecting school!

I also managed to learn a lot of new stuff this year! For one, I finally converted to continental style knitting. This was well worth the effort, because I can knit so much faster now, and switching between knit and purl stitches is a dream! No regrets on this one! I also made my first foray into quilting, finally got around to trying out using seam tape to bind inner edges (and this is now my favorite edge-finishing technique), and expanded my embroidery skill set to include sashiko and crewel embroidery (which are really just variations on the basic embroidery theme!) I even managed to work in a little jewelry-making, both out of necessity (needed specific stitch markers and a commute-friendly way to count rows, so made beaded stitch markers and a row-counting bracelet) and for fun (a fabulous 18c-early 20c stone necklace, which I'll blog about some day soon!) But by far the most exciting thing I did this year was go insane with weaving!

I bought a rigid heddle loom last fall and made a simple scarf on it, but wasn't until the summer of this year that something in my brain exploded and suddenly I had to weave ALL THE THINGS! Some of it, you've already seen on my blog, and I have several more scarves and projects to post about, (including my first adventures with pick-up sticks and double heddles), but most importantly, I learned to use a floor loom!!!

For the past three months, I've been taking a weekly class at a local weaving studio, and I've been making tartan!!!!!

The loom I was assigned was big and old, and exactly my cup of tea!

First up, warping on the warping board!

Next, the hundreds of ends went on the loom and had to be pulled through metal eyes in a specific order. This took forevvvvvver!

From the back, you can really see the pattern coming together. . .

And then. . . Pulling all the ends through more slots!

Finally, it was time to tie the ends onto the front rod. . .

And at long last, weaving!

It didn’t take long for me to find my groove with the weaving, and then I was zooming along!

And in no time, it was off the loom!

Success! My very first tartan! Major bucket list item checked off!

This is the MacFarlane hunting tartan (the clan I’m descended from), and the yarn is Nature Spun Fingering by Brown Sheep. I decided to finish my fringe by twisting the ends, like this. . .

I’m sorry to say, I haven’t quite finished it yet! I managed to twist the fringe along one side, but I’ve yet to do the other side. Holidays, then a family wedding, and now another holiday slowed me down a bit (but all good reasons to put the project aside, of course!) but hopefully I’ll complete this project this weekend!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Croquet & Tea at Warner House in Portsmouth NH

I'm currently pulling together my ensemble for the holiday tea, I'm reminiscing about my last Regency-attired adventure, which was a tea and croquet event at the Warner House in Portsmouth, NH. I realized I have not yet posted pictures, so, here we go!

First off, I got it in my head that I wanted to make a sheer or semi-sheer bonnet. I saw one in a still from the movie Bright Star, and I simply adored it! After quite a bit of messing around with different sorts of glues and stiffeners, and a fair amount of patterning as well, I finally got a shape I was happy with. Just before popping in the car to head up to Portsmouth, I had my husband snap some pictures of my untrimmed bonnet. . . Here's one that I liked (except for the fact that the back of the dress is a bit unfinished, as I gained weight since the last time I wore it!)

Once in the car, I set to the task of trimming the bonnet. I had some really fabulous plaid silk ribbon that I'd been hoarding a while, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to use it!

I also managed to make a quick reticule in the car. I'd cut the pieces out before I left just in case I could manage it. It's even lined. I just wouldn't be me if I weren't trying to overchieve at the last minute, ha ha ha!

I went with red because I'd recently bought some fabulous new red boots!

One of the main events of the day was the croquet game! I should mention from this point forward, all the pictures are shamelessly stolen from my friend, Sarah, who is in the pink dress. Apparently, I only took a few shots that day, but her husband was creeping us with the camera all day, and I'm really thankful for that!

We have some weird traditions, like this sort of thing. . .

But I promise, we really are good friends! ;)

And of course, there were some posed pictures as well. . .

There were actually quite a few ladies in Regency at this event! They were all so friendly, and very nicely dressed. It was nice to be in such good company!

All in all, this event was fabulous! Everybody was great, and the house is seriously amazing. If you're in the Portsmouth area, you should really check it out! The smalt-walled room is probably one of the most fantastic things I've ever seen in a period house.

I hope they'll have this event again because I would definitely attend!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Blog Consolidation

As you may or may not know, up until now, I've had two sewing blogs going on: this one that was meant to be sort of a "what's new" for my costuming web site, and another one for modern sewing and knitting projects. I've decided that I'd like to consolidate everything and just have one single blog in which I can babble on about all my crafty adventures all in one place, and this is the blog I've decided to stick with. So, you will be seeing some very non-costuming themed posts here in the very near future, and I hope you'll enjoy them!

In case you were really only interested in seeing the historic costuming themed posts, I've set up a series of tags in the column to the right, which you can use to filter my blog posts. At the moment, it's just the historic costuming themed posts, but as I add non-historic posts, I'll update the list.

And, of course, the blog had to get a makeover! Any excuse to mess around with making graphics and choosing fonts. ;)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Early 1920s Dress and the WGBH Downton Abbey Event

I've become a bad blogger, but it's not entirely my fault; full time work plus part time school has been sucking my soul! I'm studying to be a programmer and I'm in the advanced classes now, so it's time-consuming and draining. However, I have managed to do some sewing in between! I have several works-in-progress that I've been doing off and on, and then one complete new ensemble, including underpinnings: my first 1920s!

When I heard that WGBH was putting on a Downton Abbey 1920s themed event, I knew I was going to have to attend! Because there were only a couple of weeks until the event, I knew I wasn't going to be attending in costume, because that would just be crazy. But I started working on a copy of an antique 1920s brassiere in my collection anyhow, and bought some silk for a 1920s dress I'd make "some day," because now I had 1920s on the brain. . .

Long story short, I decided the day before the event that there was no way I was going without a costume, and I pulled another classic Jenni over-night costume-making adventure! I made this entire dress - plus a slip - plus finishing the brassiere repro - in just under two days. Madness! The only thing that wasn't finished was that I didn't hem the dress. That probably seems lame, because seriously, how long does it take to hem a dress, right? But I was literally sewing the straps of the brassiere and slip while it was on my body, while I was frantically dressing to go. We were a little bit late, but that's fashionable, right?

1920s Dress at WGBH Downton Abbey Evening

This event was so much fun! They had everything you can imagine, from dancing and live 1920s style music, to a fashion show, to delightful champagne and 1920s themed cocktails. One of my favorite bits of the evening was getting pictures in front of the backdrop of Highclere Castle (aka, Downton Abbey). . . (Please ignore that my dress is too long; it will be correct once it is hemmed!)

1920s Dress at WGBH Downton Abbey Event in front of Highclere Castle Backdrop

We also had a blast with the photo booth. Of course, our pictures clearly show what serious people we are. . .

Photo Booth at WGBH 1920s Downton Abbey Event

My dress was inspired by one I saw from an early 1920s National Suit & Cloak illustration. When I was still in my "I won't make a dress for the Downton event, but I want a 1920s dress some day" frame of mind, I was all about embroidering the dress. . . But when I decided to make a dress over night, obviously that was out of the question! I'll go back and add some embroidery at a future date. . .

1920s National Suit & Cloak, inspiration for the 1920s dress

However, without the embroidery, my dress was looking quite plain. I was going to make a self-fabric sash, but then I remembered this antique belt I had in my collection, which was a gift from Glenn last year. It was too small for me, but I added a small piece of fabric temporarily to make it work. I think it worked out pretty well!

Vintage or antique beaded belt and 1920s silk dress

The dress is made of silk (georgette, maybe?) and this is fabric likes to slip around and shapeshift, and can be a beast to work with, but here's my pro tip for you: Put a bit of tissue paper beneath the fabric, sew through the fabric and tissue, and then tear away the tissue. (Actually, what I'm using here is medical exam table paper. So there's another pro tip for you: Medical exam table paper! Not only is it good for sewing slippery sheer silks, but I also use it for tracing patterns and making initial drafts of my own patterns, because you can see through it to trace, and it's flexible enough that you can pin it and see how it's shaping over the body or dress form, yet just sturdy enough to put up with that sort of thing. And it's cheap!)

Pro tip for working with slippery sheer silks, use tissue paper or medical exam table paper and then tear it away

In the midst of all this sewing, I decided I would try - for the first time ever - to get marcel waves in my hair. So I took a patterning break and set my hair, and later a sewing break to see how it turned out. Before I brushed it out, it was pretty awesome! But then I brushed it and it sort of went crazy. . .

1920s marcel waves, setting the hair in clips  1920s marcel waves, after the clips came out  1920s marcel waves, after combing it out a bit

I think if I had more skill/practice, I could have worked with it more and made it awesome, but of course I didn't, plus I had plenty of sewing ahead of me! So I just ended up curling my hair and doing the best I could to give it an early 1920s look, which is more appropriate to the era of my dress than the severe marcel waves anyhow.

At the WGBH Downton Abbey Evening 1920s Event

All in all, it was a spectacular evening, and I hope they will host it again next year!