Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Renaissance fest costume for friend

I finished this a couple of weeks ago and finally have time to post pictures.

My friend, Melissa, wanted a Renaissance fest costume. I wanted to get experience sewing for other people, so I offered to make her a costume for just the cost of materials. I don't think I got a whole lot of experience in sewing for other people since she fits into my other corsets perfectly, but hey! I was sewing for someone else, which involves dealing with a different kind of pressure & performance anxiety, and I was able to follow through on the project without feeling like I had a burden on my shoulders. That's something that I've always worried about--how I would deal with the responsibility of sewing for others.

On to the fun costume stuff! Melissa's favorite colors are pink and green. I happened to have that pink and green fabric remnant I'd originally bought for the Titanic corset (a project that I still haven't attempted to pick back up). I decided to use that for her corset, since I already had the binding and ribbon for lacing to go with it.

I used heavy duty nylon duct ties for it, and I don't know if I was just really inconsistent in sewing my boning channels or if the ties were slightly wider than the cable ties I normally use, but many of them were a very tight fit. I had to be creative and stuff some of the channels with the weed whacker cable I bought earlier this year as experimental boning material that just didn't work out. I'm glad that wasn't a complete waste of money! Also used four hacksaw blades wrapped in duct tape for the front of the corset where a wooden busk would normally be, for extra-strong tummy-sucking in ability.

I made the skirt out of 4 yds of green linen-rayon blend fabric I bought at Joanne's. I had a 50% off coupon, so it was very reasonably priced. This is the first time I've bought fabric by the yard for a project, and it felt very decadent! Normally I use thrift-store linens (and love them).

I made the chemise out of that sheer poly-cotton curtain panel I bought at Goodwill about a month ago using this tutorial, which is the best thing ever.

The petticoat is made out of a cotton-something synthetic blend curtain also from Goodwill. I detailed the petticoat in a previous post. I ended up loving that petticoat so much. I saw a few other identical curtains at another Goodwill, but can't remember which one, and wish I had gotten them now, but at the time I still hadn't finished that petticoat so I didn't realize how much I would end up loving them.


The Challenge: Make my friend a Ren fest costume

Fabric: Chemise: A cotton-poly blend curtain from Goodwill; Corset: fabric remnant of unknown fabric content (probably rayon or cotton-rayon) from Joanne's; Skirt: linen-rayon blend from Joanne's; Petticoat: cotton-something synthetic blend curtain from Goodwill; cotton double-fold bias tape and quilt binding for petticoat waistband & hem, corset binding, and waistband for skirt

Pattern: 18th-century style petticoat for petticoat and skirt; Elizabethan corset pattern generator for corset; thingsofcloth peasant blouse tutorial for chemise

Notions: Gutermann brand white thread for petticoat & green thread for corset boning channels and skirt; heavy-duty nylon duct ties & heavy-duty weed whacker cable for corset boning; size 0 grommets for corset lacing; double-fold bias tape & quilt binding for petticoat waistband and hem, skirt waistband, and corset binding; cotton twill tape for waist ties on petticoat and skirt; satin ribbon for corset lacing and shoulder straps; four 32 TPI 12" hacksaw blades for front of corset/busk

How historically accurate is it? Petticoat and skirt: the pattern for the petticoat and skirt is very historically accurate, but the fabric is not. I think the hem depth is accurate (I can't remember where I read hems of 18th century skirts were rarely more than 1-inch deep). I think using bias tape to enclose the raw edge of the hem might have been done sometimes, but I don't know. I think the waistband finishing isn't very accurate, but the waist ties are. Corset: the pattern is historical-ish, the boning pattern is probably just fine historically because from what I've read, there were no hard and fast rules for corset boning patterns in 18th-century and earlier corsets. The boning materials are not accurate. I don't think the grommets are historically accurate either, but I can't remember when corsets started to use grommets instead of hand-bound eyelets. Anyway, the grommets should be size 00 but all I could find when I first started sewing was a size 0 grommet punching kit. Chemise: not historically accurate--I don't think historical chemises had drawstring necklines, and I think sleeves were set differently (like with underarm gussets).

Hours to complete: I really need to start keeping track of time spent on my projects, but having to check the clock every time I take a break is annoying. So the project took about 2 weeks to complete from start to finish. It took several days to finally figure out how to make the chemise due to making mockups of other patterns that didn't work out. When I finally found the thingsofcloth tutorial, it took about four hours to make the chemise because I had to finish the seams with a zigzag stitch to keep them from unraveling. That sheer poly-cotton fabric was awful to work with. The corset took about 10 days. The skirt took a few days of working on it after I got home from work.

First worn: We're going to the Sherwood Forest Festival together on March 31!

Total cost: Petticoat: $4.99 for the fabric, $1.50 for 1st package of quilt binding, $1.79 for 2nd package of quilt binding, I already had the thread and the cotton twill tape. So $8.96 total (including tax). Skirt: about $20 for the fabric, $1.79 for the quilt binding for the waistband, and I already had the twill tape for waist ties. So about $21.79 total. Chemise: $2.99 plus tax for the fabric. $0.99 for the ribbon for drawstring. Corset: about $3.50 for the fabric remnant, $8 for the satin ribbon, $3.29 for binding, about $7 for boning, and I already had the grommets. So approx. $21.79. Hmm... I'm forgetting something. I added up my receipts and it came to about $68 for the whole costume, which includes two shirts I purchased for Melissa's sons from Salvation Army for about $7 total. Oh well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Old letters: Mrs. D. Mashias (?) writes to Mrs. Eva Mercer, 1912

I have loved reading about the pioneers all my life. I found an old letter in an antique store this weekend from a lady in Iowa to her sister in Kansas, talking about their difficulties in homesteading. I'd like to share it here. The letter is transcribed below the pictures, and I've kept the original punctuation and spelling.

[FROM: Mrs. D. Mashias (?), Lenox, Iowa TO: Mrs. Eva Mercer, Baldwin, Kansas / Aug 3 1912]


Dear Sister & Family,

I guess I had better write. I think our letters crossed again. We kinda have a hunch to write the same time at any rate we hear from each other . I guess we each have plenty to write about and thats the weather. To start in with, it will soon be 2 months since we have had any rain to speak of. have had only 6 in of rain fall since Jan. 1 [?] so you can form some idea how vegatation looks. Our pie plant we set out in the spring is gone. And we watered garden & everything till one well went dry. And concluded not to haul water. Wheat was not very good crop from 2 1/2 bo [?] to 16 on valley land. Oats were the same way. I think we have enough hay up to carry our few head of stock through. We have no grain for feed. Have about 400 chickens, after we cull out the roosters. We want 200 pullets. Have hopes that they will go laying before we exoust o[u]r feed money supply. And with our 3 young cows we can live. It sure gives a person a feeling they want to live in an irrigated country.

We had a fine prospect for crop till this set in and it nearly brings tears. Yet where I read there is 16 other states that have drought sections larger than Kans or more families in need, we should not complain I guess. Our potatoes done fine as to the amt of ground we had in. Would have put more in if we had been extablished and knew our land better. Sold around $50.00 worth [$1171.42 today] and by the looks we will have to be content as that is the sum total of our crop sale. Now its up to the cows and hens to feed us. Every one is worried not blue. What the end may be. This heat is driving us wild today I had to stop and come to the house. And let the outside work go on. It may look crazy or lazy but what do I care. It beats being sick. I just don't know which way to turn. Seems like I have reached the end after 4 yrs of failure. Having the children give us money to live on when we are able bodied. And work is crushing. Roland seems to think we ought to be content with a roof over our head, where its furnished. Yet when you plant and have everthing dry up just before our eyes. And no work to do. for no person has enough money to pay for anything only food.

I don't mean to complain yet these are fact of which I can't controll. Not finding fault with our Maker or cursing the Country or Govm't. Yet we can't support ourselves I know I have written about the same trend of thought in the last 4 yrs. I hope you will forgive where we work with hope we would like to reap.

We wet the ground so the chickens will keep cool. and they sure look fine. Have 2 fresh cows. I ought to have some cottonseed meal to keep them up, the dry feed is not sufficient. Have been letting the calves get their supply of feed from their mothers. So they are fat, and will sell them soon.

I hope you are well & Florence has been able to go back on her work before this. How I wish I could help you. I know Florence will say another blue letter. Why don't they move to a better state. We may.

As ever Charlie

Thurman wrote Mrs B - would like to have us back on her place

Sewing rage and whatnot

Well, I learned how to make a peasant blouse!

I made a T-tunic first, and didn't like how the fabric bunched under the arms. So I cut the arms off and adjusted the pattern and made underarm gussets. I was already feeling irritable for some reason when I was doing this, and my inner voice was telling me not to worry about the tunic for now, but I ignored it, as usual.

Let me say a word about my cutting board. This is what I had:

The thing is cut so that there are three strips on either side of the center and is folded up like origami to get it into the square configuration. When unfolding it, the three strips on either side of the center flop around and land in awkward positions so that you have to do a lot of tweaking to get everything to lay flat. I have a tiny sewing room. The board takes up half of it, so I don't have a lot of room to maneuver.

And it's impossible to fold it up into a square again. There is a diagram showing how to do it, but who has the time or patience for that? (hint: not me) Whenever I use the cutting board, I just dread having to fold it up again because it's the kind of thing that tends to send me sliding headlong into a cold rage, but I've been using it as an exercise in patience and tolerance. I just take a breath when I start getting mad at how much I have to struggle to get the thing into a somewhat flat configuration so I can shove it behind my wicker cabinet, and I say to myself, "It's not worth getting mad about."

That worked really well until I had to redo my peasant tunic. I cut out the new paper pattern using my cutting board as the smooth, flat surface I needed. I laid out my fabric and cut two squares for the underarm gussets. I folded the fabric neatly when I was done and put it back out in the garage where I store my stash. I then proceeded to try and fold up my cutting board. It didn't work. I flopped it back down on the ground so I could try again with all the pieces in order. The pieces landed every which way but flat. I tried it again. And again. Finally, I snapped, and yelled out loud, "I HATE THIS!!!" and tore the cutting board up in a fit of rage and stuffed it in the recycling.

That felt good. It felt really, really awesome. I was trying not to spend any more money than I had to, so of course I had to get a new cutting board (which folds normally THANK GOODNESS), but it was worth the $12.99 I spent on the new one to rip up that old one.

I couldn't post a picture of my final peasant blouse, because it's made out of that very sheer voile and I didn't want anyone to see my undies. But here's the tutorial! It's the best peasant blouse tutorial I've ever seen! Try it, you'll like it!