Monday, January 13, 2020

Rosie's Toadstool Village

The past few days have brought warm rain, letting me have the opportunity to open the windows and air the house. Today the sun peeked out and it was the perfect opportunity to get some pictures of a project that has been dear to Rosie's heart for awhile. I feel bad that I didn't get it done sooner but better late than never!

This is the Toadstool Village pattern by Twig & Tale and I believe I purchased the pattern last March, when it was on a sale. Every so often Rosie would ask when we would make it and somehow we never did get it started. I decided that was going to change, though, so last week we finally printed the pattern, taped it together and Rose selected the fabrics of her choice for the top of the mushroom caps. Then it was sewing time!

The original pattern makes a lovely, soft stuffed toy, but Rose expressed disappointment when I told her that the finished toadstools cannot be opened to use as houses for her tiny dolls and animals. I thought I would try to figure out a way that they can be opened, so this is what I came up with. 

I cut out the pattern pieces as called for, and also cut out the walls pattern piece out of fusible foam and lining material. I cut an additional base out of lining material. I cut the outer base from thick wool. 

I fused the foam to the lining and sewed it into the body of the house with a narrow seam allowance which I then trimmed off quite close. The outer layer of the body, cut of linen-look cotton, I sewed as normal. I then sewed the foam-lining and the outer body together, right sides together, around the top edge, and the seam was trimmed, turned and pressed. I pinned all layers together and basted them around the bottom of the house body. I then sewed the house body to the wool base, right sides together. 

Once that was done, I took the base lining piece and turned up the seam allowance and pressed it to the wrong side. To cover the seam between the wool base and the house body, I pinned on the base lining and slip stitched it by hand, covering the seams. I left a small opening and filled the area between the wool and lining base with some dry beans, for weight, and then finished slip stitching the lining to the base. 

The fusible foam worked perfectly for creating semi-rigid walls that are still soft. The toadstools can (and have!) deal with plenty of crushing but they spring back into shape right away. The caps are made as the pattern directions call and just laid on top of the house for the roof - no stitching to the house! For the doorways, I cut shapes and finished them with blanket stitching. Now Rosie can easily put her toys inside!

I did all the embroidery after the sewing was done. This took a few days but the girls played with the toadstools intensely all during that time, so I worked on each one individually. Even Benjamin, 5, and Malachi, almost 11, like playing with these! I am so thrilled to see my kids enjoying these so much. 

Rosie and I made a playmat out of some silver and gold shimmery fabric, cut to the shape of a birch leaf. Two layers are simply sewn together and turned right sides out and topstitched. It makes the perfect little play area to set up the village. We made a pond-shaped playmat out of two silver circles cut from the fabric, and that is where the acorn-turtle and the walnut-turtle live together happily (their names are Arnold and Daisy). 

My fingers need a break now. . .my embroidery is not the best but it sure uses a lot of muscles. 😁 Carpal tunnel is real. . .

Much love to you all,


Monday, January 6, 2020

Details of a 1968 Hobbit Dress

Happy New Year, my loves! I know I am a bit relieved that the holiday season is over and a fresh,  new year has started. I hope that you all are likewise rejuvenated at the prospect of a new beginning and that you all can take time this year to enjoy moments of beauty, to love others fully, and love yourself just as you are, right here, right now.

I love the tall, quiet peace of these pine woods.

I've been rereading the works of JRR Tolkien, as I sometimes do, and have also been working my way through watching the Peter Jackson movie adaptions again (extended version only! 😁) It's been slow going since I often fall asleep at night before getting very far in my book and usually the kids prefer to watch something different on tv. But! Slow progress is still progress. After Christmas I felt the desire to work on a small, not-important sewing project. I have a basket in my sewing room with several WIP's and pulled out a hobbit shift I had made over two years ago. In fact, I think that that hobbit shift was one of the first sewing projects I ever made in my new sewing room. With visions of Shire-folk in my head I felt a bit excited about putting together the rest of the outfit.

In-progress, after sewing on the front panel. I had to refine the fit through the sides
since the pattern came out a lot larger than the size printed on the cover!

When I made my first Hobbit outfit, over seven years ago (!) I studied the movie costumes really closely and tried to replicate the movie version as best as I could. While I was really happy with my finished hobbit outfit, it was definitely a recognizeable costume and although I did wear it a few times for different events, it didn't do much but collect dust before I finally sold it off after losing baby weight.

Grey lace on dark blue wool.
This time, I felt I really wanted something that was not a costume. I don't go to many events and besides Halloween, there really isn't any occasion for me to wear a movie-version Hobbit costume. While I used to wear historic or costumey clothes on an everyday basis I definitely don't do that anymore.

Fitting with side bust darts was challenging. . .princess
seams are definitely easier!

I went through my pattern collection and found a pattern for a dress I got at Goodwill two summers ago. I had never made it up, but it was the right size and the basic design of a fitted, slightly high waisted bodice with a moderately full skirt would work really well for a Hobbit-inspired dress. The more I thought about it, the more everything fell easily into place. I would make a 1968 Hobbit Dress, that could be worn as a costume or for modern wear. (Ok, when I say modern, I don't mean what's fashionable in 2020 - I gravitate towards styles from the 60s, 70s and 80s so a 1968 pattern definitely fits into my modern wardrobe).

Will use again. :D

I made up the sleeveless version of the dress in the last few days before the New Year. It's a darted-to-fit bodice with darts at the back waist, front waist and side bust. This is different from the cut of the movie bodices, which seem to be mostly fitted with princess seams. The only modification I made to the pattern was to lengthen the waist by 1.5", to accommodate an embroidered panel I have saved for just this purpose for several years. I made the bodice in dark blue superfine wool and applied the interfaced embroidered panel to the center front. To cover the raw edges of the panel, I hand stitched on blue strips of linen cut from one of Benjamin's old shirts. The bodice was bag lined with plain cotton and the armhole edges, front neckline and front panel was trimmed with hand stitched cotton lace trim. I had a little of the lace left over after this was done so I stitched it to the back bodice since the back was quite plain.

Adding the trim. . .

Finished bodice before the waistband was sewn on!

A remnant of mustard yellow calico in my stash was perfect for the skirt, which is cut from rectangular panels and pleated at the side waists. The back opens with a placket. The length of the skirt is bit shorter than  my previous hobbit costume, since it seems that during the period my pattern was published, skirts came in 3 lengths - above knee, just below knee, or full length. For this skirt, I went with just below the knee. The excess fabric (about 7"!) is turned up in a very wide hem and hand stitched to finish.

Finished dress inside view.

For the second skirt layer, I made a full length petticoat. Originally I planned to make this of green check cotton but the material that had been sitting in my stash for years was too thin, too old and too fragile to work very well. Halfway into the construction of it I decided I didn't want to put work into something that would not last very long so I put it aside. I took out a blue chambray tablecloth I got at a garage sale last year and it was just enough for a full length peasant skirt, which will work well under the jumper-dress for a Hobbit look or can be worn on its own for modern wear. It's a nice, basic skirt. I used every bit of the tablecloth for the skirt and didn't have any extra for a hem so I faced the hem with lightweight cotton canvas, to give the flounce a bit of body.

Underskirt hem.

The shift, of course, was already done but I did replace the neckline drawstring with narrow elastic, just because elastic is so much easier! Of course, this dress can be worn with any kind of peasant-style blouse and I have a few in my current wardrobe that will work just as well as this one.

Quasi-18th-century-ish shifty thing.

The apron is a very basic waist apron. I had a large quantity of this minty green check cotton at one point but could only find a small piece of it, so I used all of that small piece for the apron and ties. I had *just* enough of the trim to go around the apron. I thought the trim worked quite well with the embroidered panel on the dress, although it is perhaps a bit matchy-matchy, but I think it definitely gives a 1960s-does-Hobbit vibe. The trim is pieced in six places but darn it, it works and I don't think the joins are noticeable enough to make much of a difference. This is one thing I probably will not wear unless I am actually dressing as a Hobbit. I don't wear aprons much in modern life so this is one thing that is costume specific.

Hobbits like bright colors! :D

Last of all I took a cape I made several years ago and redid it to go with both this outfit and any other outfit that calls for a cape. The original cape was based on a half circle and never quite fit the wearers neck, no matter who wore it. I cut a bigger neckline, shaped the shoulders with darts, and cut a collar from the old ties and neckband. To close the cape I added a large hook and eye and a loop and buttons, for decoration. The buttons are wood and they don't match, but I think that adds to a bit of rustic, Hobbit-y charm, right? 😁

My goal was to get the outfit completed before January 3rd, which was Tolkiens birthday. I did get it done, though I was stitching hooks onto the dress that night as I watched The Two Towers.

As soon as the weather is nice enough for outside pictures, I will post some of the completed outfit- in the meantime, I will definitely enjoy wearing all these pieces (except the apron, ha) in different combinations as I go about my everyday life.

Have a blessed January!


Monday, December 23, 2019


No new sewn Christmas dresses this year; it crept up on us far too quickly and there wasn't time for planning of pretty new frocks or carefully coordinated outfits and posed pictures. And that is ok.

Instead, we put on whatever red or greenish clothes we had and I took the kids out to a mound site near here, and they agreed to allow a few pictures before going down to the creek to look for arrowheads, pretty shells and rocks and get dirty and wet, in general. Since it nearly reached 60 degrees today, that is also ok. 😁

It is always a bit bittersweet to take pictures of the kids and to realize how quickly they are growing up. My oldest is now a teenager and baby Rose will go to kindergarten next summer. How thankful I am for moments like these, to always keep in memory. I love my sweet ones.

Have a wonderful Christmas! I love you all.


Monday, December 9, 2019

A Druid Robe

This project has given me more pause than any other I have made. All throughout the process of planning it and sewing it I stopped and set it aside, to return to it later when I was in the right frame of mind. Sometimes I felt really positive about this project and other times I would think to myself that this doesn't matter; it's silly; people will think I'm weird when I wear it.

Well, yes. In many ways this outfit does not matter. Any person who wears certain clothing for special occasions would probably say something similar; clothing is just a tool. It can help us get into a state of mind where we are more in tune with what is going on in and around us. But we can just as well do what we need to do without wearing specific clothes.

But, of course, being rather interested in clothes and their construction and their history I really wanted to make this! Whether people think I'm weird or not is a non-issue, even though I at times still feel that peer pressure to "conform" to people's expectations (I'm growing out of it though! I promise!) While many neo druid groups encourage the use of "traditional" white robes, I was more interested in what people were actually wearing during the time the ancient druids were still practicing and teaching in Europe. I thought it wouldn't be terribly hard to find out what northern Europeans were wearing during the Iron Age to early Dark Ages but. . .um yeah. It is hard.

This isn't a period terribly well documented, both due to the time that has passed between then and now and the lack of written record. While some possible documentation exists in the form of Roman records and contemporary art depicting captives, it's hard to know what is real and what is artistic license or bias inserted against warring groups by Roman chroniclers.

Some accounts indicate druids did, indeed, wear white, while others indicate bright colors and expensive fabrics.

Of course, I also had to take into consideration a lot of other factors. Geographic location (druidry was rather widespread), cultural influence of neighboring communities, military outposts and trade coming in from other places, contemporary attitudes towards druidic practice (while it was perfectly acceptable early on, Christianity soon attempted to make short work of the druids and "converted" a lot of the druid sacred figures and days to a "Christian" version). I had to take into account who I am, what my role would have possibly been if, in an alternate world, I had been born into a community where druidry was practiced. Would I have been a druid myself? (women were) Would I have been a citizen under the leadership of the druids? (they served as historians, poets, teachers, healers and judges of disputes) Would the druids have dressed differently than laypeople? Or would they have worn similar clothing but indicated their status through the use of color or certain garments?

The hooded white robe of modern druidy finds its origin not in the actual age of druidry but in the druidic revival of the 17th century on. Today, many people still wear the hooded white robe for special occasions but many prefer not to, especially since some hate groups have adopted similar white hooded garments, like the KKK!

I read a lot of books and articles and thought about which direction I wanted to go with this outfit. I was not in any hurry but thought it would be nice to get it done before the end of the year, which also is the end of my first year in OBOD. I also did not want to spend any money on this outfit. Recycling materials is an earth-honoring practice and I felt it was more in the spirit of druidry to use what I already had rather than buy anything new. After looking over available materials that had not been earmarked for other projects, I decided that I would, indeed, make a white garment but I did not want it to resemble the modern hooded robe. There would be no hood and the garments would be of a historic cut, at least, though not of a historic material.

I went back to the first book I had read on the subject of clothing. This book is the fabulous Dress and Personal Appearance in Late Antiquity, the Clothing of the Middle and Lower Classes by Faith Pennick Morgan. While this book deals with the clothing worn in the Mediterranean area under Roman rule, the styles are so simple that it seems the basic shapes could not have been completely foreign to their celtic neighbors. Indeed, most garments are unfitted and vary little between men and women, except in length, and are based on a square or rectangular shape. I could find no evidence for the more fitted gusseted, gored "T-Tunic" pre 500 AD or so, so I decided to go with the diagrams in this book for my robes. (Honestly, "robes" sound far more grand and luxurious than this outfit is; it's really an under-dress or under-tunic with a short overdress!) A long sleeved tunic makes sense for the celts, although certainly bare arms beneath a peplos type dress were worn as well. I live in Ohio; it gets cold, and I like long sleeves 3/4 of the year, so yes, mine is long sleeved. 😁

I had a large flat white cotton sheet and decided to use that for a long sleeved under-dress. This dress is based on the Whitworth Tunic on page 124, which is the closest thing I could find to the later gusseted styles. This cut allowed me to achieve a semi fitted bust and shoulder area, with sleeves that taper to the wrist, and a skirt with fullness that flares out from the underarm to the hem so that I have plenty of movement when walking. It is still a very modest style that does not require much fabric. Instead of the close fitting square neckline of the Whitworth garment I made my neckline in a common straight style, which is merely a horizontal slit from shoulder to shoulder, large enough to allow the head to pass through, and hemmed down to create the very shallowest of shallow boat necks.

This is a wonderful, comfortable basic garment. I thought it was ugly and hugely unflattering til I put it on and I didn't want to take it off. Unflattering or not, this is comfortable! And it is warm. The neckline took a bit of getting used to, but eventually I didn't notice it at all. To construct this under dress, I cut two rectangles of fabric for the front and back body, two rectangles that I later cut down to taper towards the wrist for the sleeves, and two triangles to sew to the sides of the body to add fullness at the hem. The interior stitching was sewn by machine with all seams felled by hand afterwards.

The over dress is a short peplos style dress (also known as a bog dress) without the fold-over at the top. It is short because the fabric I had was pre cut into panels (probably for curtains?) and I couldn't lengthen it without piecing. I do like the shorter length, though, especially as this fabric has a tendency to grab onto anything it touches. An overdress that goes nearer to the ground would pick up all kinds of little twigs and leaves and would be a pain to clean after wearing. This dress is simply a tube of fabric, hemmed on both open edges and pinned into place on each shoulder. To give the dress a bit of shape, I belted it, as was done historically. This is just a self fabric belt but one in the colors of the "grade" in OBOD you are working in would not be out of place, either. Of course, a tablet woven belt is my eventual goal but for now. . .I like this just fine. The over dress blouses out over the belt at the sides and hangs down a bit, so that the hem remains relatively even. In period, tapering tucks were sometimes sewn into tunics around the waist level, to bring the hem up evenly.

I also made a short, sleeveless white chemise or slip. This has no base in history but is purely practical, since the sheet I used for my under dress is a bit see-through. I used leftover cotton knit fabric and my fitted t-shirt pattern to sew up this quick little garment. This actually could double quite well as a summer dress if it's too hot to wear the full ensemble! 😁

Since there are no pockets I threaded my self fabric belt through the back loops of a leather bag I've had forever. This works just fine to keep any necessary items in and I'm thrilled to finally have a dedicated use for this leather bag! Although I am not part of the ADF (for several reasons) the ADF does have a local presence and when we gather to celebrate special days this bag will be a great place to keep ones small offerings.

The only additional thing I want to make is a cloak. This will either be based on the circular cloaks in Dress and Personal Appearance  or the more probably historically accurate for the celts rectangular cloak, pinned at the shoulder and which can be worn in many ways. I had a large white cotton hospital blanket I was going to make such a cloak from,  but it wrinkles easily and my kid decided they wanted it to use as, well, a blanket. 😂 I have some grey wool blend fabric that may work well for a cloak but haven't made it a priority to make it up yet. . .I will though, probably over the winter. It's getting cold outside! My son David has told me he will help me make a pennanular  brooch to close the cloak with his forge and metal working tools.

I finished this in late October and Malachi took some pictures for me. It's still lovely in the woods though now there are far fewer leaves and it's cold. As I get older I dread the cold and the winter a little more each year and feel anxiously restless. I need to remember that this time is necessary and good so that the earth can rest before new life begins again in the Spring. I still am very much looking forward to the return of longer days and warm sunshine, though!

If anyone is interested in my experience so far in OBOD, I did start a blog for that. It's still newish but I will be reviewing the Bardic grade again this coming year and trying to organize my thoughts about it.

Much love,