Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rolling With The Punches

it me
I am feeling a little hard-done-by presently.  The blue silk dress is mostly finished--just need to fell the armhole seams, do the skirt center front seam[1], and hem it; but when I tried it on with the sleeves attached, I realized that it really is too tight to wear (by about 5lbs worth, if you see what I mean) and I would feel both physically and psycho-emotionally uncomfortable wearing it at present.  So, that's irritating.  On the bright side, it means I am not going to make myself crazy trying to finish it and redo the surcoat for Saturday.

Which is probably for the best; because although the antibiotics finally knocked out my sinus infection, I have had an adverse reaction to them which made me break out in giant itchy hives all over my body for the last several days[2].  I'm kept functional by Hulk-appropriate doses of antihistamine, but it's not conducive to sewing, far less being creative.

pricked und pounced
I did manage to fulfill my commitment to make a favor for the youth fighting on Saturday.  I have a personal dislike of the giant rectangle belt favors tradition, so I figured to do the narrow kind you can tie around the warrior's arm.  Since my colors are blue-and-gold, and I have all these handy blue silk scraps from the dress, I cut a strip from the waste to embroider my badge on.  I transferred the design with the prick-and-pounce technique I learned at last year's embroidery academy (using baby powder instead of lampblack, and an estoile from the Traceable Art Project).  This worked pretty well, except the silk was so thin I couldn't put it in a hoop, and my thumb kept smudging the lines. 

finished object
I outlined the whole estoile in stem stitch with golden silk floss.  Since my badge is blue-and-gold, and I had this lovely blue ground already, there was no point in embroidering that half; I just filled the gold half of the estoile with the same silk floss.  In stem stitch as well--which is not a filling stitch, I know, but I thought it would work well enough for something this small.  [Narrator's voice: It didn't.]  (Well, it did, but it was a pain in the butt and not as nice as it could be.)   In general, I do need more practice with stem stitch--I couldn't get the outline, even, as crisp and exact as I wanted.  Add it to the list of things to work on.  -_-   I also made a fundamental error in spec'ing out the project; I cut the silk strip with the thought of just hemming the edges, but of course it actually needed to be folded over so as to protect (and make invisible) the wrong side of the embroidery.  So I had to tinker with it a good deal to make it work and get it hemmed, which also means that the estoile goes a leeeetle too far to the edge, but whatcha gonna do?.  The next one will be better.

It's coming to the time where I have to plan and, more to the point, prioritize the summer sewing (in conjunction with my other obligations).  There's going to be more learning experiences, sigh, since I am intending to make my dashing consort a proper 14th-century kit: braies, shirt, hose, tunic, cap (and hood if I have time), none of which I've done before--well, the shirt is easy, and I've made hose for myself but that was years ago--.  Plus, I need to take in the two dresses I finished for last year, because I do not enjoy my boobs wandering down somewhere around my navel.   And, of course, the mending.  Ugh.

[1] I think I need to start the eyelets further down, too.  Trying to decide if that means I have to cobble together additional facing.  I don't think so, since it's not load-bearing?  Because it would be a fucking nightmare to do at this point.
[2] and they started a day after I finished the antibiotics.  Is that fair?  I ask you.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Upcycling Your Closet: Proof of Concept

that sleeve is not actually attached. shhh

I've been minimally functional the last several days of lurgy, at least enough to do eyelets; and by diligent application (and pseudoephedrine, and bingeing on The Crown) I got them done this evening with enough time to lace up the gown and throw on Ye Fifteen-Yeare-Olde Surcoat on top and see how we're doing. 

A few observations:
  • Although I cut out the silk to the pattern fit to me last summer, and although according to my monthly body measurements I'm the same dimensions now as I was then, this is really tight koff koff. I am guessing this is the unforgivability of silk. 
  • Somehow the two front panels and their gore ended up a good 2" shorter than the rest of the hem, which is otherwise pretty consistent.  How the hell that happened I do not know.
  • God, I need some decent aglets on my lacing cords.
  • The standy-out-ness of the fake fur is all wrong; it needs to be moved in.  Possibly the side gates need to be cut in a little further entirely, at that. 
  • I also don't like the cheapie fake fur I used, period; but I don't know if I can easily/quickly get my hands on anything better.
  • My intent was to pull the cheapie buttons off the front, and just wear the very lovely (and large) èmail en ronde bosse brooch my dashing consort got me at the top center; but I don't know if there will be obvious marks left behind, because stupid cotton velvet.  
    • The ideal (and period) solution would be an ermine placket.  Anyone selling ermine?  *hollow laughter*
  • Not sure if I should cut the neckline a little lower, to be closer to the line of the under-dress.
All in all I'm increasingly unsure I'll be able to get everything done in time for Mudthaw, which is two weeks from yesterday--I lose most of next weekend to family affairs, and I promised to make stuff for the bake sale, and make a favor for the youth fighting, and and and.  It may end up another bourgeois outing, after all.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

They Are Called "Long" Seams For A Reason

Current status

Been quiet here because I haven't done anything except a) hand-sew long seams on the new silk dress and b) fight off successive rounds of sinus weasels that lay me flat for days at a stretch.  I am very, very bored with seams--because the silk is so prone to marking, I have to be super careful with my needle placement when stitching down the seam allowance, and that means I have to concentrate mostly on that instead of being distracted by stupid teevee while I work--but it must be admitted that this laborious grind is improving my skill and control.  (My gore action is also improving, though not yet to where I want it to be.)

The good news is, I'm mostly done with them; all the gores are in and the sleeves are assembled.  The remaining work, probably in this order, is:
  • face the center front with silk strips (this is going to be harder than usual, as it is a more curved front than usual, at least for me)
  • close up the center front long seam, up to the bottom of the lacing point (I haven't done that yet 'cos I figure the facing will be easier to do while the garment is still two-dimensional)
  • attach the sleeves to the body
  • eyelets bloody eyelets
  • face and hem the neckline
  • hem the skirt (maybe a reinforcing strip there too? Not sure.)
The bad news is, I'm sick and flat again.  I do not think I have the spoons to futz with the facing today; and I shouldn't disassemble the rust surcoat yet, because I need to check its shape on My Body With Dress On so I can decide if edits are necessary.  hrmgrmbl.

Oh yes, I did finish the socks I was working on; so I can pull another knitting project from the backlog (to be completed in another 18 months, no doubt).  I'm not feeling inspired presently, though.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

In Which There Is Competition

it is following you home and you can keep it

As threatened, yesterday I entered the pourpoint into the East Kingdom's competition to choose their Majesties' champions of arts & sciences.  Strange as it may seem, I think this is only the fourth competition (as opposed to a display, where you aren't judged) I've entered in all my time--one at Mudthaw like ten or twelve years ago when I didn't know which end was up, and twice at St. Eligius, which is rather a different kettle of fish, much more recently.  Of course I have talked to people who've competed at this level before; and the competition maestros were very communicative about what to expect and how the day would go; but it's never the same as actually participating. 

My display was mostly straightforward--I had the swatches with the different types of padding material, and bowls of samples of those materials, and a Binder Full of Documentation (and Photos). I didn't want to just throw the pourpoint on a hanger, as that really gives no idea of the garment.  So, after frantic gibbering on the facebooks & receiving advice from more professional heads, I lugged along my (size 6 female) dressmaker's dummy, a tight t-shirt, and the rest of the bowed cotton, and stuffed it out to more or less pad a size 40 male torso.  Learning experience!  It worked tolerably well, at that--clothing looks 100% better if it's actually on a shape; but lord, I don't want to have to do that every time I display a garment. 

Most of the day passed in rather a haze.  I wasn't completely over the lurgy that flattened me this week (I'm still not, really), and the hall was unfortunately loud and crowded, which is not an environment I thrive well in, to say the least.  The event staff did a phenomenal job trying to keep all the artisans fed, watered, and as comfortable as possible (propping exterior doors open, etc.), and I was sharing a table with two members of the co-prosperity sphere so we could all panic together, and mah peeps checked in frequently to monitor my physical and mental status bars and boost them however they could; all of which helped immensely.  

A thing that was terrific, and different from the average A&S display (especially the one at Pennsic), was that the larger part of the people coming through are artisans themselves and have a deeper engagement in what they see, even if it's not in their own field of study.  When you're a clothier, you get resigned[1] to spectators' eyes glazing over past your work unless it's covered in gold thread or spangles; but here, I had many more interested people asking interesting questions, and that felt great.

On the down side of that, because I felt I ought to stay at my display and be available to talk to people about it, I didn't get a chance to go around and look at other peoples' stuff and have interesting conversations with them.  I'm bummed about that, and on future go-rounds I would like to find the right balance between being available to seekers and yet reserve me-time to feed my head.  

It would be idle to deny I'm disappointed that I wasn't a finalist.  I thought I was going in with a damn good shot, and it was something of a blow to learn that I wasn't in the top 20% of the field[2].  But, at least for those whose craft I'm familiar with, the artisans who did make the cut do really fine work and excellent research; and it's absolutely no shame to come in trailing them.  

quoth a friend,
"ooooh, you're
banging a lord
So, the pourpoint went to its forever home at the end of the night...and I think my patron is having second thoughts about a garment with over 80 buttons on it, but I assured him it gets easier...and I can start taking thought to everything that's been on hold in the interim.  (The veil-and-wimple getup worked pretty well; my favorite compliment of the day, possibly the whole year, was being told I looked just like a tomb weeper; but the construction starts drifting down the back of your head as the day goes on.) 

Other happy things of the day: my dashing consort got his Award of Arms; and one of our co-prosperity sphere was made a Companion of the Maunche--which I was honored and overjoyed to write the words for his scroll.  Where by "scroll", I mean "runestone".  And by "words", I mean "a poem in a Nordic style that is really fucking hard in English because three- and four-syllable lines whyyyyyy".  (The English version was then translated into Old Norse and then into runes for inscribing.  Not by me, needless to say.)  It was a fascinating exercise, though, and I enjoyed it[3].

[1] or you don't, in which case you spend a lot of time unhappily shaking your fist at the sky, and who wants that? 
[2] 7 out of 37 contestants moved to the final round.
[3] 100% true story: in high school, I was voted Most Likely To Write An Anglo-Saxon Epic.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Pourpoint Commission: And On The Seventh Day, She Wrote Documentation

The pourpoint is DONE.  I moved the final card from "In Progress" to "Completed" on the ole kanban board last night; the subsequent celebration of which I am still feeling a tad this morning, ahem.   Also I am having a giant smug that I did not quite run out of the quilting thread--there's about a yard and a half remaining.

Naturally, that is not the end of the matter.  The garment is finished, but the project is not; I'll need to finish the linen test version at some point (oh god more quilting) (at least it'll be laced, not buttoned).  More immediately, however, I need to get my documentation ready for the competition.  I have the basic skeleton already--I wrote my usual couple of pages[1] for when I showed it at Pennsic--so I can expand from there, including all of the neckbeardy detail that one is usually wiser to excise in documentation meant for the general public.  I am reasonably sure I can knock that out today and still have leisure to make Rôti de Porc Poêlé aux Choux for dinner.  No, I'm more concerned about the rest of the display and how to arrange it. Obviously I'll have my test swatches and samples of the different padding materials; maybe a couple of spare buttons, too; but I am chewing on what else to include--there's a fine line between "interesting additional detail" and "a giant cluttered mess".  And I really don't want to faff around with a science-fair style tri-fold standup.  Dear past me: maybe I shoulda gone to one of these before entering, just to see how other people roll. 

Silk Clothing,
BNF Nouvelle acquis.
lat. 1673
Oh hey typing this all out is giving me stomach butterflies.  Or maybe I've had too much coffee.  Or both.

Anyways: staying focused: today I write the actual paper, and also dig out linen to use for veils (or learn that I don't have anything suitable).   I have two weeks to freak out about my presentation.  

--LATE BREAKING SUDDEN INSPIRATION: look at the various Tacuinum images of tailor shops and make it look like one of those?  hmm.

[1] which, as usual, almost no one read, hey ho

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Pourpoint Commission: Buttoning Down


It's been a long holiday season, with the concomitant distractions, coming-down-sick, family visits, suddenly holding three offices[1] and so on; but I kept plugging away at the work, and although I'm not as far along as I hoped to be, I'm within the baseline schedule.

First off, it developed that the local post office just lost my quilting thread entirely, so I had to reorder them completely (snarl).  This arrived quickly and safely, at least, so I got back to work on the sleeves right after Christmas Day and finished them up...while coming to the slow realization that I was going to be woefully short of buttons.  Not just the cloth ones, either; I extrapolated the measurements and calculated I was going to need about another half-dozen metal-core ones as well.  Which meant I also needed to order another packet of metal blanks from the other vendor.  kiiiiilll meeeeee

However I had plenty to do while waiting for that shipment, so I placed the order and got cracking on another ~30 cloth buttons....where by "got cracking" I realized I had not recorded what dimensions I used for the fabric pieces that make up the buttons, so I had to cut a finished button of each kind open and measure it.   For the record, the metal-core flat buttons are 1-1/4" rounds of fabric with a gather stitch in a 1" diameter circle; and the cloth ones are 2" squares with a gather stitch in a 1-1/4" diameter circle.  This results in as close to a 5/8" button as you can get under these fabric conditions, which do not lead to anything remotely resembling consistency.  (When I do finally get to making my fancy overdress, I'm curious to see if that brocade behaves as chaotically as this one does.)

When I got all the existing buttons sewn on, I realized I didn't actually need any additional metal button blanks at all; I had just enough (at least, once I re-made the one I had to cut apart for analysis).  *facepalm*  Still, I figure I can make a couple extra and give them to my patron in case he loses any.

Current state of play on all fronts--
  • Pourpoint itself: all that needs doing is about 25 more buttonholes, and undoing & fixing two spots at the top of the shoulder where the fashion fabric has pulled out of the seam.  Buuuut I also have to write my paper and figure out how to arrange my display... Likelihood of on-time completion: 100%
  • Silk dress: The body seams are done & gores in; the sleeves are constructed (one more long seam remaining); but I have to sew in the sleeves and then do all the fiddly bits--center front facing, neck facing, and all the G-D eyelets, which usually takes me just as long as the actual construction.  Likelihood of on-time completion: 80%. Likelihood I'll be able to wear it: 45%, because...
  • Sideless surcoat remake: haven't even looked at that shit.  In theory, as noted before, it wouldn't be more than a day's work, but that assumes I have everything I need.  So, likelihood of on-time completion: 45%.
  • New veils: whaaaat, you say?  Where'd that come from?  Well, I've been displeased with my head styling for some time, and this displeasure has steadily raised to the point where I can no longer abide. So I spent some time when I couldn't sew thinking this question through, and I have a long-term complicated plan involving fake braids and one of them fancy frounced veils; but as a Phase One implementation I was going to follow the excellent Katafalk blog's how-to for getting The Look when you have short hair.  To do this, I need two pieces of nice linen hemmed up: one for the wimple, and one for the veil.  And I am thinking maybe I ought to prioritize this work over the new dress, because my wool dresses are good quality and all, and I would rather look complete to a shade (if bourgeois) than dressed in silk & velvet with hair like a haystack or wearing nothing but a cotton (!!) headrail.  But I am very slow with rolled hems and I haven't even looked at my linen stash to see if I have anything fine enough in stock.  Likelihood of on-time completion: 70%, if I prioritize it over the dressmaking.

[1] yeah so I'm now Webminister for the Kingdom Ministry of Arts & Sciences, and Seneschal of our local canton, and deputy Webminister for same.  I'm not sure how that all happened at once.  Or why "all at once" happened to be "right now".  Frickin' comedy writers.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Foreign Working, No Visa Required

This is before steaming, don't @-me
As previously noted, I was in a wait state on the pourpoint due to lack of thread[1] and so switched gears to start on my silk dress.  I'd assembled the body pieces from the waist up before I left for England; and it occurred to me that this silk packs down so small and light, I could easily take it along to work on--it's not like I was going over to tourist or party, and I knew there would be a lot of quiet visiting time where hand-work would be acceptable.  I prepped by cutting a whole bunch of appropriate sewing lengths of the linen thread I am using (60/2, if you care) and waxed & ironed them thoroughly, then wound them 'round a card to bring.  That, my usual sewing kit, and the gridded ruler & chalk was enough, and took up no more space than, e.g., my pajamas.  I'm happy to report that I return with the back and side gores fully assembled & attached.  I still hate gores, but I seem to be getting better at them.

I did also baste instead of pinning the pieces together for sewing. It feels weird in my head place--a little less so the more I went on, but it is not entirely resolved--and I haven't yet noticed any benefits in speed or accuracy for what I'm doing at present, but I'm going to keep on and see how things change (or don't).  

I had also meant to bring stuff for seam finishing, only then realizing I didn't actually have anything appropriate.  That is, I have silk threads of all kinds; but they are various types of embroidery rather than sewing thread, and although I've used some of them for seam finishes before, those were either for decorative purposes or on thick enough wool or linen that they could pass unnoticed.  I can't fudge it on this fabric, nope.  So I sent a Hail Mary order to Superior Threads for a couple of colorways and weights that I thought might do; and that at least I have found here waiting for me, yay.  C'mon, let's open the box together!

So, I got two spools of their Kimono Silk (100/2) and two of Tire Silk (50/2). Now I've got them out of the packet, I think either would do, but the 100/2 looks like a better bet (and is a closer color match as well).  My fabric is still so very crisp and sheen-ish that I'm going to have to be exceedingly skilful to not make the thread super-obvious, if that's even possible, which I'm not convinced of.  All I can say is, thank goodness I don't intend to wear this dress without an over-layer.

Apropos of which, I think I don't have a whelk's chance in a supernova in getting the brocade over-gown ready for February[2], so I'm letting my back-brain chew on how I can easily & quickly remake my very very old rust-red velvet sideless surcoat as an alternative. The color story would be good; I'd just need, I think, to bung in a lining[3]--scrap silk would do--and do something to ornament the neckline.  Obviously what it should have is a strip of narrow gold-work embroidery trim, but possibly a good-looking storebought trim could pass. But it'd be no more than an afternoon's work, anyways, I should think.
Sock #1 Action Shot

On the knitting front, I have gotten past the heel of Sock #2, hooray for long flights. 

[1] (...which still hasn't arrived, I find?  WTF?) 
[2] more fucking buttonholes
[3] this would also contain those stupid little cotton pills that get everywhere when you're working with cotton velvet