Thursday, 20 April 2017

Rowany Festival

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, I have been a very busy little bee!

This Easter Weekend just past, I attended Rowany Festival, which is the biggest SCA (Medieval re-enactment) event in Australia. There were around 1000-ish attendees, all dressed in medieval garb, some even with period accurate camp set ups. I unfortunately didn't take any photos, as I didn't want to lose or damage my camera, and turned my phone off for most of the event to conserve power. So here are a few photos from other members of my camp.

The Barony of Mordenvale's campsite
Photo by Alexous Ofuri

Watching court, you can see my big bum in the blue plaid,
with 2 other people from my camp
Photo by Nicole Flood

2 of the guys demonstrating some swordplay
Photo by Nicole Flood

Me and Nicole
Photo by Quinn Ortega-Edwards

One of the Artisans building a forge

One of the teams during morning war
Photo by Nicole Flood

I managed to quickly make a houppelande from a doona cover set I picked up second hand for $12 a few days before the event. Most of the cutting out of the pieces I did during some spare time at uni, and a majority of the construction happened during meeting time for the uni SCA group, with only the hem being done at home, and the neckline and belt hooks and eyes being hand stitched on the bus ride to festival.

On the line drying after being washed. There is also a belt in
the same gold flocked brocade.

Bell sleeves and a very full skirt

 With this additional dress, I had 3 complete outfits to wear, which only meant I would have to re-wear 2 of them. My first outfit of course was the one I made for Winterfest last year, the second was one I made for the SCA newcomers event earlier this year and haven't blogged about. It consists of a white chemise, this time made from essentially an over sized T-tunic with a gathered neckline, a bodice/pair of stays made from calico and a brown wool petticoat.

Also on the line drying, and in desperate need of a press.

This does lace fully closed, and the next one I'm working on I
am working on is a bit smaller and shorter in the back

I had a few other items I had started making for festival, but either didn't get finished in time, or I lost interest in them as they weren't turning out as I had hoped. I may or may not get them finished in the future, we'll see I guess.

Other than preparation for festival and the festival itself, I haven't been up to much else apart from University study. I have been trying to limit myself to not sewing anything if I have assessments that need to be done, otherwise I would never get them finished on time. I have started on another Butterick 6167 (yes, another!) in an adorable Cat print quilting cotton from Spotlight. After being away from my sewing machines so many days, I really needed a nice quick sew to feel some accomplishment. It's almost finished, with just the zip and hem to go.

I am already dreaming up plans for garb and camp set up for festival next year, so hopefully I get myself organised during the year and don't leave it til last minute (like I usually do)


Monday, 3 April 2017

I made a Denim Jacket!

Yes, I made a Denim Jacket! Complete with flat felled seams and (mostly) straight top stitching! The pattern I used was the new Kingston Jacket from Mummykins and me. I made a straight XXL (didn't even need to grade out for my hips!) and the pattern goes up to a ladies 5XL, as well as being available in children's sizes as well.

I once again forgot to take progress photos while making this jacket, and while I was using a particularly thick, unruly denim, the thorough instructions, combined with my trusty, ever faithful Janome with a walking foot, made sewing this jacket surprisingly easy! 

Nearly all the seams are flat felled, I used my overlocker for the ones that weren't but this pattern also includes instructions for seams without overlocking. As with any Mummykins and Me pattern, this one is very well set out and explained, so while it may seem intimidating at first, each step is so well explained, it makes it a very manageable sew.

I top stitched in a medium pink, and used a piece of floral fabric leftover from my Madison dress for the under collar.

I also used the optional hanging loop, and I love how handy it is.

So far I have already worn my jacket to University and to a Dixie Chicks concert. It should hopefully fill a gap in my me-made wardrobe of a casual, not-to-warm jacket.

And here's an outtake from the photo shoot, which I'm calling my "bad girl" look.

I'm really looking forward to getting lots of wear out of this jacket over the coming cooler months, and am also considering sewing another one out of a lighter fabric, or perhaps a vinyl bomber style jacket. Who knows......


Sunday, 12 March 2017

The start of more Medieval garments

As I am studying at Newcastle University this year, I decided to join the campus SCA group, which is essentially Medieval re-enactment and other fun stuff. I have always had an interest in historical clothing, and did actually attend a few SCA meetings almost 10 years ago when I lived in Sydney, but until Winterfest last year, hadn't really made much in the way of (mostly) historically accurate garments. Now, after only 2 meetings with this new club, I already have 3 more pieces of garb underway (some of which may take longer than others to finish) My inspiration for my new pieces is to create a complete wardrobe for a specific time and place, and taking inspiration from my husband's last name, I have chosen to focus on Scotland, probably around the 15th or 16th centuries, as any earlier than that seems even harder to find reliable information on (and later is no longer medieval)

The first item I began on is a yellow leine, which is essentially the medieval gaelic version of an undershirt. They were worn by both men and women, throughout Ireland and Scotland, particularly by those who refused English rule. According to the research I have been finding, they were quite often dyed bright yellow, although I am finding conflicting information about whether they were dyed with saffron to get the colour, or merely dyed a saffron yellow, by way of a description of the brightness. From what I have been looking at, they fairly often had long, bagged sleeves and simple necklines. There are many variations of course, but I wanted a fairly simple design, but liked the bagged sleeves, as they can also be used as pockets.

I found a piece of light yellow cotton in my stash, that was just over 2m in length. Ideally I would have liked more fabric to work with, but I also like to work from my stash instead of buying more fabric, and I also believe that trying to make historical clothing work from as little fabric as possible would be quite in the spirit of historical accuracy, as working class people would not have been able to afford to be extravagant and wasteful with their cloth. Traditionally the leine would be made from linen, but I can't really afford that sort of fabric, so cotton will suffice just fine for my needs. To start my leine, I simply folded my fabric into quarters, so that the middle of the fabric, where the neck opening will be, was at a corner, then using my measurements and pins, marked where I was going to cut. I cut the front, back and upper sleeves as one piece, with no shoulder or sleeve seams. I then pieced some extra length onto my sleeves from the fabric next to the skirt, to make sure they would be (almost) full length, and also to utilise the most out of the fabric. The way I have cut and constructed my leine is almost certainly not historically accurate, however, with such limited fabric, this is they way I chose to do it.

Sorry for the wrinkles, but this gives you
an idea of the sleeve shape

Here is a rough diagram of how I cut to make the most of my smallish piece of fabric:

The construction was very simple, sewing on the extra sleeve lengths, then just sewing the 2 side seams. I plan to use a simple facing for the neckline, which I will hand stitched down once it has been turned in and pressed. The sleeves and bottom still need to be hemmed by hand. I can leave it there, but I am considering trying my hand at a little bit of decorative embroidery along the hem as well.

I also decided to make a bodice/corset/stays/pair of bodies, or whatever term you wish to use, as so far my kirtle is the only support garment I have, and I thought a second one, without an attached skirt, would be handy to have. I decided on a simple design, back lacing, sort of straight Tudor style front, with tabs at the waist and ties on the front of the shoulder straps. I quickly drafted a pattern for these straight onto my calico when I was at my brothers one day, but when I pinned the pieces together to check the fit, discovered I had made quite an error in my measurements and needed to add an extra panel either side. so I then used those initial pieces to trace out new pieces, cut out 2 layers, sewed the seams, pressed them open, then sewed the 2 layers right sides together along the back edges only. I then turned it right side out and began carefully hand sewing boning channels along several of the seams and back edges. I used a tiny prick stitch, which should be fairly strong.

Prick stitching the boning channels

Progress shot. Tabs will be cut into the bottoms of the panels

Once I had added boning channels and boning to both front seams and the 2 back edge seams, I began working on the lacing eyelets, stretching them out with an awl (actually a knitting needle, but whatevs) and hand stitching around them with the same sort of reverse blanket stitch I used on the eyelets for my kirtle. After I had inserted a couple of the eyelets, I tried it on to get an idea of the fit. It wasn't perfect, but it certainly wasn't bad either. There seems to be a little too much room under the arms, but that may sit better when the rest of the eyelets are done and it is fully laced up, if not, I can remove some of the excess with a dart on each side. Also, the shoulder straps are far too short, however, I can just use a longer piece of sting to tie them to the front, so that isn't too detrimental. At the moment I am thinking of using some dark green cotton for the binding around the edges, but I am not completely decided on that yet.

The third garment I have been working on is a pair of socks! I know, how exciting! I saw another SCA member using a technique called nalbinding at the first meeting I went to, so the next day I decided to find some of my rougher handspun and a wool needle and give it a go. It essentially gives you a fabric similar to knitting, but is made with shorter lengths of yarn and done with a yarn needle, where you pull the entire length through a loop each stitch. It is a technique that predates knitting, so definitely could have existed in the 15th/16th century in Scotland. Looking in my collection of handspun, I found 3 cakes of some brown alpaca that I had spun, 2 that were quite chunky and rough, and 1 which was a lot finer. I started my first sock, using some guidance from online tutorials, using one of the chunky cakes, but as it was forming, I realised I would finish the cake before making the sock anywhere near as long as I wanted. In an attempt to keep things even between 2 socks, I made the decision to start each sock with each cake of chunky yarn, then finish each with half of the yarn of the finer spun cake, thus keeping the sole, toe and heel thicker and more hard wearing, then making the leg a finer, more delicate weave.

Sock progress. cake in use on the left, finely spun cake in the
middle, and the second rough spun cake on the right
I have also already made an Arisaid, but as that is just a rectangle of fabric, it's not really much on an achievement. I purchased 2m of a blue, black and white polyester woven tartan, that is lovely, soft and warm. It naturally has a small fringe along the selvedge edge, so I machine stitched down each cut end, about 1/2 and inch from the edge, and purposely frayed the fabric. These are usually worn pleated and belted to the waist, so I will have to find or make a suitable belt to go with it.

I still have plenty more garments in the planning stages for my SCA persona, which I will share once I get started on them. Has anyone else been working on any historical clothing?


Monday, 27 February 2017

Mummykins and Me Madison Blouse/Dress

Recently, I was lucky enough to be selected as a tester for a new pattern from Mummykins and Me. While I had heard of this designer before, it was mostly for her children's patterns, but what I didn't know was that most of her patterns are also available in adult sizes as well! The pattern I tested was the Madison Dress and Blouse (also available in girls sizes) I was originally going to sew up the blouse version with the bow collar, but when I looked in my fabric stash and chose a lovely lightweight floral cotton, I could just see it made into a nice little A-line dress.

I made a XXL, graded out to the 4XL at the hips and hemline. These patterns go up to a very generous 5XL size, which is great for us larger ladies. I didn't use any interfacing in the button placket, to keep the whole garment light and airy, and utilised clear buttons so as not to distract from the floral print.

While this is certainly not my usual style, I really love how it has turned out! The little gathered sleeve heads, and neat little collar, make it very sweet and feminine, which I always love. Like most PDF pattern designers, Mummykins and Me patterns have wonderfully detailed instructions, that seamstresses of any experience level could follow, and as a bonus, for those more advanced seamstresses such as myself, they include a 1 page cheat sheet of brief instructions. I mostly used this so I didn't have to scroll through pages and pages of instructions that I didn't need. The instructions also include options for seam finishing, so you don't need to have an overlocker, or spend time working out the best way to finish all the seams.

If that wasn't enough to tempt you with this pattern, here are a few of the other lovely ladies who tested this versatile pattern!

Valerie from Elegantine made a beautiful silky blouse

Tenille from Tenille's Thread made a great wardrobe basic white blouse (which makes me want to make one too)

Loni from Havin Sew Much Fun made this cute girls blouse

Amy from Anna's Heirloom Boutique also made a delightful girls version with some cute print coordination.

Zoe of Soul fed on thread made this cute incarnation, and if you head over to her post, you can also see the adorable matching doll size one she made!

I can definitely see myself making a blouse version with the neck tie in the future, but I am also thinking of hacking it slightly and making use of those shoulder yokes to create a cute vintage western style shirt. But for now, I am already making my second Mummykins and Me pattern, the Amsterdam Coat!


Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Dracula Kwik Sew 4001

Last weekend, Spotlight stores hosted a super sewing weekend in their stores. I went along on the Sunday, mostly to try my hand at winning the brother sewing machine. Spoiler alert, I didn't win it. But I did have a very lovely day, spending many hours at a table of other crafty ladies, appliqueing unicorns on tote bags, and making felt finger puppets. The brother sewing machine was the prize for the most creative felt finger puppet, and although mine was one of the best, someone (I don't know who, as they were there on the Saturday) beat me out.

Once the crafts had finished, naturally I did a bit of shopping. I got a few $2 a meter fabrics from the clearance table, a number of nativity scene panels that were $2 each from the remnant bin, and 3 panels of this awesome retro style Dracula cotton poplin print. Each panel is about 1.5m and cost $2 each, making it pretty good value.

After spending the day at Spotlight, I spent the evening at my brother's house, so he and my husband could have a few beers to celebrate my husband's birthday. Being my usual self, I decided to amuse myself with my new pretty sewing things, and borrowed my sister-in-law's sewing machine and supplies. I picked out Kwik Sew 4001 from her pattern stash, choosing to make view A from my Dracula Print poplin. Despite there only being 1 review of this on Pattern Review, and that review not being particularly positive, I thought I would give it a go.

Using the largest size, XL, I managed to cut out all the pieces for the bodice and pockets from one remnant, and 2 rectangle panels for a basic dirndl skirt from a second remnant. That left the third remnant to hopefully use as panels of a bowling shirt for my hubby, as I don't think there is quite enough to make the whole shirt from it. The bodice went together quite easily, following the pattern instructions. When overlapping the front pieces, I angled the points down a little further (so they weren't quite lined up with the bottom edge of the other side) so that there was slightly less gape in the neckline, and trimmed off the excess. I got all the way to attaching the waistband pieces before heading home from my brothers house. The next day, I overlocked around the pocket pieces (the only pieces that needed it) and sewed them into the skirt pieces, then gathered the skirt and attached it to the bodice, and inserted the zip into the side.

At this point I tried it on and hated it. the bodice was sitting horribly and was just loose and baggy everywhere. Fiddling with the fit while looking in a mirror, I decided to take up the shoulders a whole 2 inches each, which at least got the dress to a wearable, shop-bought level of fit. It is still gaping quite badly in the armholes and neckline, but is at least wearable. While I usually have to shorten bodices, I don't think I have ever had to take off this much from the shoulders of a pattern before. If I ever make this pattern again, I will be making a smaller size and making a few changes to the pattern before I even cut it out.

Despite not loving how this dress turned out, I still finished the hem and wore it to my Orientation Day for University on Wednesday and received lots of compliments (which I think was mostly due to the fabric choice. I will probably still wear this, despite the fit issues, as it is quite comfy due to how loose it fits.

These photos turned out a little bright, but you get the idea. Anyone else sew up a pattern, against their better judgement? I guess that's the whole point of Pattern Review, so that we don't waste our time and fabrics on patterns that just don't quite work like they should.


P.S. I am super excited to start University next week!