Wednesday, March 3, 2021

B'ellana, Ben and Elsa!

I made Anne a little Star Trek Voyager costume for Christmas, based on her favorite character, B'ellana. We planned to do a proper photo session once the weather warmed up but we haven't had the chance to do that yet. However, today she wore her uniform for her school "Dress Like Your Favorite Character" day and her uniform is juuuuussst barely fitting as she has had a recent growth spurt. 

Why does she look like a teenager already?! 😭😍

Benjamin wanted to be Darth Vader but due to dress code policies about full costume masks he wore the jedi outfit I made his older brother some years ago now. He looked perfect as Obi-Wan or, well, Ben! Himself! 😄

My sweet bubby!!!!


Rosie was determined to squeeze into her Elsa dress and her hair has grown long enough to put it up into a very short braid. I allowed her and Anne to put on makeup for the day, since it is a fun week at school with different themes for each day. The girls love to go into my room and go through the box I keep my little-used makeup things in. I think they all looked so cute today!

Her bangs continue to grow out as we try to retain the normal bangs she wants to keep. 

I know it's blurry, BUT GUESS WHO LOST HER FIRST TWO TEETH?! 😍

If Anne wants to do a photoshoot after school today would be a perfect day for it! I need some cool poses with her tricorder and communicator!

Much love,

Sarah

Friday, February 26, 2021

A Red Wool Flannel Welsh Dragon

 This winter has been so extremely difficult. Anxiety and restlessness and despair settled into, it seemed, my very being. Logically I know there is no justifiable reason for this and it is probably related to lack of sunshine and the cold weather (warm days and sunshine put me into an immediate cheerful mood) but the last few weeks have been so, so hard. It has been hard to force myself to become very interested in anything and the smallest tasks have seemed exhausting.

Since I know this happens, to some extent, each winter I kind of plan for it. In January I ditched social media for a time (I did reactive Instagram, but am much happier and calmer being off of facebook). I picked up work again on my family tree on Ancestry.com and started researching more into my fathers direct line - the Edwards - a hard line to research and such a common name! - but felt it was the right time to do that. My 3x grandfather immigrated to America from Wales in the 1880's and was, himself, born in Wales in 1854. 

I had been reading a book about Welsh superstitions / folk stories around that time in relation to my studies in OBOD - British Goblins: Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions by Wirt Sikes - and felt it was a cool connection to be reading about an area my family came. The more I read the book and researched my ancestral connections the more excited and interested I became. I was so grateful at the time to have this to kind of hold onto, to carry me through the dark days of winter and give me motivation to do more than just sort of exist and mechanically go about my days. 

I fell down a few rabbit holes I'm still fascinated by and continuing my research in - Welsh National Dress (yes, there will definitely be a Welsh outfit in my future!) and Welsh cooking - and discovered that Wirt Sikes wrote another great book about daily life in Wales, Rambles and Studies in Old South Wales and once I'm finished with my current book I will begin that one. 

Anyway, I have had little motivation for sewing lately. I have plenty I could and should be doing but it's been hard to even think about threading the machine and getting to work on anything. I did, however, briefly feel interested in making a little stuffed dragon from some red flannel scraps I've had forever. I found Jennifer Carsons etsy shop and fell in love with her whimsical and lovely patterns for all kinds of fantasy creatures. I sensibly bought what seemed to be an easy pattern and what she calls a perfect choice for a first time dragon charmer and I printed it out. The Laying Western Dragon pattern would be a nice little project to work up during the cold dark days of February, or so I thought. 

It took SO. LONG. for me to finish this project. I ended up feeling completely overwhelmed by it and I had to break it down into so many manageable chunks to get it done. This has nothing to do with the pattern, which is well written and clearly illustrated, but everything to do with my own mental state at the time. Little by little though, I kept at it. A seam here, turning a sewn piece there, stuffing later, then sewing the stuffing hole shut a different time.

I used my 1920s treadle to sew together the main pieces and the rest was done by hand. I ended up mostly sewing Dewi - for so I came to call him -  in various half hours of dark evenings after dinner and while everyone else was watching tv in the living room. 

The past week the weather has warmed up and the snow has mostly melted and I feel 100% better and completely different than I did at this time last week. I want to start work on more serious projects so yesterday I sewed the back legs and attached them - something that probably would have taken me a week to do when I was still struggling so much with the winter. 

The red dragon is featured on the Welsh flag and is symbolic of a folk tale in which a red dragon (the Welsh, or Cymry) fights against a white dragon (the English). Red wool flannel is itself very symbolic of Wales, as wool production was extremely important to the Welsh economy. (Even the shifts rural women wore in the early 19th century were often of wool flannel, rather than linen or cotton!) 

If you have never heard the story of the Red Dragon, I highly recommend this Youtube video (and the channel itself  is definitely worth a subscription!) The Story of Lludd, Llyfelus & Y Draig Goch 

Dewi the dragon seemed to evolve into his own sweet  natured person as I stitched him together. He is certainly not a fierce dragon like the one prancing across the flag but I adore him as he is. He has blue eyes, for my father and grandfather Edwards and his name came from the youngest son of my great-great-great grandfather Edwards who came to America with his wife and oldest son in the 1880s. I remember when I first read the names of his children I was suprised to see Dewi at the end of a long line of traditional, "sensible" names. What kind of a name was Dewi? Then I came to find out that Dewi is a common Welsh name, which is a form of the name David. My grandfather Edwards was David and David is my own fathers middle name. 

The background in these pictures is a painting my own son, David, made for me. I want to do a post on all David's paintings soon. He is an amazing artist and I love his work so much! This particular scene of a still lake with trees and hills, in shades of blue and white and green, is so calming and serene. 

So very happy that spring is in a few more weeks! I am so happy to be going into a warmer time of year. 

Love,

Sarah

Monday, February 8, 2021

A Red Floral 1860's Wrapper

 There were no Civil War events for me to go to in 2020. Even though I have gone to fewer and fewer as the years have gone on, I did miss going to events last year. As the year wound down towards its end I did make one 1860's dress - a red floral wrapper, my first 1860's garment for myself in three years. 


My grandma passed away in July of last year and I felt I should make a mourning gown as I did when I lost my grandfather in 2013. However, I never made much progress on the black wool dress I halfheartedly began because it was too depressing and didn't feel quite right at the time. Finally, in September I found some red floral fabric  by chance at a local shop and I bought five yards of it as well as a yard of a coordinating print that was in the $1 pile. When I got the fabrics home it felt to me that they ought to become a wrapper. 


I love wrappers because they don't need to be worn with a corset and are useful for working-class scenarios (although, to be sure, fashionable, fancy wrappers worn by upper class ladies certainly existed too!) Many years ago I made a wrapper as a casual dress option for events when it was very hot or I didn't feel like wearing a corset or if I was pregnant or breastfeeding and dealing with the figure changes those conditions bring. Also, wrappers can be fun and loud and colorful and bright and all those things are what I think of when I think of my grandma. 


I began my wrapper in September and took a few weeks to make it. I took it very slow as I had to, in some ways, reacquaint myself with sewing techniques I hadn't used in quite some time. Finally, in October it was finished and my son Malachi took some photos for me at a local wildlife area. (My kids, as they get older, are less and less enthusiastic about taking pictures of my finished projects for me! 😂)


The wrapper has a fitted back and sides with a half fitted front bodice lining and full length loose front panels from the shoulder to hem. I carefully cut and pieced my trim fabric and sewed it on by hand. The lining fastens with reproduction hook and eyes from NJ Sekela and the fashion layer fastens simply at the neck and is tied shut at the waist with a self fabric belt that is inserted into the seam between the side and front bodies. 



The fabric probably isn't quite correct for the 1860's, but at this point in my life I am do not care so much about being exact. The overall effect is pleasing to me and the rich, warm red makes me feel happy and alive. I love thinking of the many hours I spent working on this and all the memories of my grandma that I thought of as I stitched. 

Had to include these pictures of Benjamin because he is just TOO. ADORABLE. Here is wearing his older brothers outgrown wool overshirt and short trousers. 

And oh my goodness Lucy was so little. She is 3x that size now.



It was a good project for me to ease back into 1860's sewing. In the several years it has been since I last made an 1860's dress my figure has changed enough to warrant a whole new base pattern (or bodice block). I had to alter my wrapper a bit as I made it to fit and it still doesn't fit exactly as it should. Since it's a loose, casual garment though, it's fine. Once the wrapper was done I did go ahead and take a few days to modify my pattern and come up with new, better fitting base. I also adjusted a copy of this base into a base pattern for a later 19th century basic bodice, too - so that whenever I have time or inclination to make that 1890's dress, or the 1880's work dress I have been wanting to sew on my (new! old!) 1880's treadle machine, it will be easy to start. 

Mock up from base pattern from 3 years ago.

Final mock up after adjustments were made!

Pattern for late 19th century bodices

Mock up of late 19th century bodice. This shoulder line works for earlier 70s and 80s but needs to go up higher onto my shoulder for later 80's and 90s things. 

I do need to do a post about that treadle machine! I love her so very much. She is an 1880's American No. 7 and she is just waiting for me to stitch up a plain 1880's petticoat and that work dress. I will get to it soon, I hope. I have my pattern, fabrics and my book of pattern diagrams for the skirt/sleeves out and ready to go. 

Much love,

Sarah


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Yanta Overalls in Red Denim

As I look back over my sewing experiences last year I find that I mostly focused on everyday, modern clothing. Each year seems to fall into a sort of theme and I guess the theme of 2020 was machine-sewn, everyday, vintage inspired. The vintage inspired bit is from a lot of the patterns I used or took inspiration from, mainly from the 60's, 70's and 80's. 



Since there were no living history opportunities in 2020 I did not feel pressured or rushed to make historic clothing for any of us. The few things I did make - my 1890's undergarments and my 1860's wrapper - were fun and slow paced. 


I used my sewing machine almost exclusively, trying with each new project to stitch them well and sturdily. While hand sewing has its place, as I get older the carpel tunnel that began with my last few pregnancies has gotten more easily irritated and I can only do so much hand stitching without needing to take a break. I used my serger a lot more, but not as enthusiastically as I did when I first got it. I find that for most woven garments I prefer french seams or felled seams if there is no lining. Serging is great for finishing seams on knits, however. I also used the serger extensively for mask making. (I sewed up a fresh batch of masks for the 3 littlest just last night and it was fun using the serger again!) 


In May I turned 34 and as a present to myself I got the Yanta overalls pattern from Helen's Closet.  This was purely impulse because at that time the sewing community on Instagram was having their #memademay challenge and so many people were sharing their Yantas. I loved them! And had to make some for myself.


I used some light red (pink? Not quite. Light cranberry?) denim I had in my stash and quickly cut out and sewed my very own overalls. I immediately wore them but as we were going into June by that time and it was very hot I didn't really wear them again  until fall and cooler temperatures came back. It was a hot summer.



The sizing is meant to be rather loose and baggy but I wanted a more fitted look so I went down a few sizes. The finished overalls fit me just how I wanted them to but then when I washed them they seemed to shrink a bit (I did prewash my denim, so I'm not sure what happened!) Now there is the very slightest wedgie feeling in the bum and they are just a tad snug when pulling them on over my hips but after wearing them awhile the fabric seems to relax and stretch out a bit and they fit as they should. 



Next time, though, I think I'll go back up one size and make them in linen for a looser, airy garment that can be worn more in hot weather. 

The instructions were beautifully clear and precise and I love how professional the topstitching looks on these! 


The only thing I don't really like about overalls is having to take them down every time I need to go to the bathroom. Oh well, there really is no help for that! It does make these overalls a less-reached-for wardrobe staple but I love these for hiking in the woods and days that I am mostly outside. 

I have such happy memories of the day most of these pictures were taken. It was just a few weeks into autumn and the day began cool but warmed up as the hours passed. That was the day I first foraged oyster mushrooms. After a few hours of looking and finding none we came across a huge fallen log on top of a hill and it was simply covered in rows of frilly white mushrooms! They were soooooo good! I can't wait to get back out and look for more! We also found pawpaws that day. I think I still have some of the pulp in the freezer. 




Hope you all are staying warm and staying healthy! It snowed here yesterday and we had freezing rain but today it's much warmer with the damp smell of earth and damp fog and it just feels so happy and hopeful that spring is not so far away. 

Much love,

Sarah 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Lace Flower Girl Dresses for Anne and Rose

 Wow, it's been almost a year since I started making these dresses! These were two of the first projects I started last year and although 2020 was difficult, having my sisters wedding to look forward to the first half of the year and to look back on the second half certainly made the year memorable for all the right reasons!



Anne and Rose asked/were asked (not sure what happened first 😂) to be flower girls when my sister and her then-fiance, John, came to visit us last Christmas. My sister was pretty open to the design of the dresses. She sent me some pictures of what she thought were cute and the styles seemed to all fit the same theme of fitted bodice, slight empire waist, full skirt and sleeveless. 


I had an old pattern (I think a Simplicity?) that I used for the bodices and the skirts and sleeves were my own design. I wasn't going to add sleeves at first but the dresses felt more complete with the sleeves so we added them. 


Sewing for 2 very different sized girls is interesting when you want the dresses to look just alike. I couldn't use the bodice patterns in their respective sizes as-is since the proportions also had to be right. I had to alter waistlines, necklines, skirt width and sleeve length and width all proportionally. It was just challenging enough to make it fun without it also being a headache. 


I actually found the ivory lace at Wal Mart and bought all that was left on the bolt. It is a stretch lace but I flatlined the bodice and skirt with ivory satin and lined the entire dress with plain weave cotton. Lace and satin can be really uncomfortable on the skin, as I remember the scratchy and suffocating feelings I had when wearing my beautiful (but uncomfortable!) Fancy Dresses at Christmas and Easter when I was a little girl. Those late 80's and early 90's dresses were something else! 😂

Pre-wedding selfies on the ride to the venue!

To make the skirts have nice fullness I added a built in petticoat of netting sewn to the skirts between the lining and the satin flatlining. This was cut to be a little shorter than the cotton lining so no scratchy hems! 

Selfie Queen :D


The girls picked out a pretty beaded trim I sewed along the sleeve hems and the necklines. I added ribbon sashes and a cluster of sewn on white roses to the center of each sash, attaching it to the waistline. 
At the hotel before the wedding!

I had no idea what to do for shoes so a few weeks before the wedding I got the girls matching sandals. The day of the wedding they went to the brides house to do hair and makeup, although later at the venue I redid Rosie's hair since her hair is straight and slippery and kept wriggling out of the initial hair style.

I actually wore make up too, but I haven't worn it or earrings since then 😂

The girls looked adorable and I was so happy to have had the opportunity to sew these dresses for them. We have them hanging neatly in their closet but they haven't worn them again since the wedding. Maybe they can wear them for Easter if they still fit by then. I kind of doubt it, though. Both girls have grown at least one size and it seems Anne actually skipped over a size entirely! 

Reception!






Much love,

Sarah