Thursday, December 31, 2015

Behind the Scenes with my Historical Sewing Basket

Many seamstresses this time of year share all the wonderfulness that they sewed in the past year. Since I've already shared all those individually (albeit I do need to catch up my tabbed photo diary pages at the top) I thought I would do a twist and share all the things I did not sew to completion. I have many projects in sewing baskets, literally, at different stages of research, collection, and progression. Life has kept me busy, pulling me away from thread and needle, yet I did make some progress here and there.

One of the busy parts of my life is moderating at the Historical Sew Monthly.  I'm a bit busy at times behind the scenes, so I don't get to always finish with my sewing. Sadly this is the year I submitted the least, due to busy-ness and being under the weather quite a bit.  I actually did well at first, having submitted 5 out of the first 6 months. Then my goals became too ambitious for the enormously busy season that came upon me. However some of that has meant more research, and that will be handy in due time. Alas, I only had a few actual submissions this year to the HSM. I like that some of the HSM challenges compelled me to think outside the box, beyond what I would have done on my own.

Last June I started an 18th century black silk tafetta apron, which was used by milliners. My friend Rebecca learned of this so when I visited her at Colonial Williamsburg last year, she pulled out their own apron for me to inspect up close! She has talked me into ruffles, so they will be added. At first this was to be for a Practicality challenge, then I thought I'd enter it in the Secrets challenge, inserting some secret pockets like they did, but I haven't yet completed it.

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In July of 2014 I started sewing a mid 19th century petticoat for the paisley challenge. I bought fabric with paisleys, then studied up on broderie anglaise so that I could add scallops. Then my laptop died and I've been working on that for the last year. Thus in May of 2015 I pulled this out and started tediously handstitching broderie anglaise while at numerous doctor visits with my kids. I finished this by the end of the summer. The scallops have all been stitched and are now cut out, except I can't find that photo. So here is the beginning shot so you can see how much work I had to do. The petticoat will hopefully be finished for a 2016 project.
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There was another challenge on heirlooms where I was going to recreate a garment one of my ancestors wore. I went through my photos and my mom sent me others. I considered a 1940's dress like my grandmother, and a 1930's dress like my great grandmother, but I've been stashbusting and didn't want to buy new fabric and patterns. I found photos of my great grandmother when she was first married, with I think a news article from a much later annniversary, that I could link to lace. I come from poor country farm  folk, who made all their own clothing, yet her gown was edged in lace at the turn of the century, because that was her one special gown. Therefore I considered making lace. And of course I considered sewing the gown with the thimble that used to be hers, but the time completely got away from me.
However in my stash I did have a tatting book and a  kit. I've been researching tatting and refining my technique with the shuttle.
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Apart from historical sewing I also made an autumnal quilt top. I joined a quilt guild, and a bee, in September, however turns out the bee members are quite cliquish. Although the one lady quite kindly kept inviting me back, the others finally told her it was a closed group and I had to be uninvited. That was in October. Since these ladies sort of run the guild, that sort of makes attending the guild rather awkward. So I don't do the guild/bee anymore. That chapter of my life closed about as soon as it opened. I sewed this during that time, completely on my own time instead of bee time. I still need to make a quilt sandwich. In the process, I have learned some historical quilting techniques that I'd like to incorporate into this quilt as well as the rest of my contemporary quilts. More on that later.

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Oh and on Thanksgiving I started stitching an 18th century pinball to quietly work on. It's a reproduction from the Colonial Williamsburg collection.

Then not as historical but using some of my historical past, I'm making my own blue jeans! I'm already drawing from making flys when I made my son's mid-19th century pants a few years ago! I'm also studying up on some late 19th century history as it pertains to jeans!

Oh, and when I made our 1950's blouses and circle skirts for the sock hop, I used an original pattern which led to my research on the appliqued felt wool skirts of the era. One of those are coming in my future too!

The next challenge for Jan 2016 is procrastination. I intend to finish what I've been procrastinating on for years however none of them qualify for the HSM. Refit my dress form to me (which of course does not qualify for the HSM). Finish my 18th century stays so that they no longer hurt me (which I have already submitted to the HSM as a completed project but now I need to work on it as a tweaked project). Tweak my 18th century gowns for those stays and a few other fitting adjustments I've learned since then. (these I might be able to submit)

 I've learned a lot since I started sewing historically in Jan 2010. Time for me to refine some bits and pieces before I move on because the proper outer look is achieved by all the proper silhouette that is built from underneath. That has always been my greatest hurdle. Time for me to conquer it.   

Someday I hope to wow the historical sewing community with the results.  Press on and journey forth in the new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How to See the Missing Pages-Facebook Tips

I thought I'd share some facebook tips since I know how frustrating it is to "like" and follow various pages, only for facebook to select a mere few to post in our newsfeed. There are a few solutions for this problem but these are my two favorites.
One, when I am on my laptop I scroll down the left column to "Pages" and select "Pages Feed." That is where the missing posts went! Unfortunately that option is not available on my cell phone.
Second, when I am on my laptop, I scroll down the left column to "Interests" and click on that. On the new page I click "add interests" then "create new list."  To form a new list, I choose all the pages that are shown in the pop up screen that would fit a certain category, then I click "next." On that window I create a name for that group of pages. I have categories like sewing, decor, quilting, gardening, fitness, writing, food, homeschool, and history. I can add to or delete from this at anytime. Also, I can access this on my cell phone (android) by clicking on the top right corner where the horizontal lines are. That brings up a list of options, like seeing my various "interests." I'm on the go quite a bit so it's nice to do some of my research even if I'm not at home.
If you are a serious fan of certain pages, you can go to that timeline, to the "like" box and either select "newsfeed" or "notifications," depending on how you'd like to be keeping in touch with that page.
Also if there is a post that I want to read but can't until later, I go to the top right corner of the post to click the arrow and select "save _______." That way it is stored for later, even if I'm moving between usage on my laptop and cell phone.
Hope this helps!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Christmas Trip to Norway, via Union Station in Washington DC

Yesterday we went to Washington DC for one of our favorite Christmas trips, a visit to the gifts from Norway at Union Station. Norway decks the halls of Union Station with more than boughs of holly.

After ice skating at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, we walked to Union Station where we were greeted by the gorgeously lit and enormous wreaths of Union Station. Here is a page of photos of the hanging of the wreaths.

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As we approached the station, I found the 32 foot tall Norwegian tree. This year the tree is decorated to represent Norwegian music. There is information about that here, with sound clips. We decided this was the prettiest tree we had seen while in Washington DC.

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Each year, beginning in 1997, the Norwegian Embassy gifts a tree to Union Station to symbolize their friendship with America, kindly thanking us for helping them during and after WWII!
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The Norwegian Embassy not only gifts us a spectacular tree, but also an incredible train display!  Running across various tracks in different directions were "handmade replicas" of actual trains from Norway, "set in a Norwegian landscape of mountains and fjords."  (http://dc.about.com/od/christmasevents/a/UnionStatChrist.htm)

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Since Union Station is currently undergoing renovations, the displays are limited. A few years ago we got to see two train displays that the Norwegian Embassy had put on display, from 1950's to a mountain scene. The charm of these train displays has always beckoned us for visits. We hadn't been able to return for a few years, to our great disappointment, so this was at the top of our list this year. In fact, the trains were our first stop, followed by the ice skating, then the return trip where we discovered the tree!

Resources:

http://www.unionstationdc.com/events

http://dc.about.com/od/christmasevents/a/UnionStatChrist.htm

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Vintage Christmas Baking, Recipes, and Bow Making

After an enormously busy month, I finally began Christmas baking today! I confess my heart wasn't in it at first because I'm tired. However once I pushed myself to get started, it became so much fun that I pushed myself to see how  much I could actually bake. After all my family has been patiently waiting to have the traditional favorites to enjoy.

One of the family favorites is fruitcake, the dessert of ill repute! However we love it! I use a recipe my mom always used, one from a vintage Borden cookbook. I bet it's in this cookbook. Today you can see it on the Borden website here. Just looking at the ingredients brings back sweet memories. I know, I know. The fruit and peels have a bad reputation but they are good in this recipe. When I open the mincemeat jar the room suddenly smells of Christmas. I think I want another jar to make a mincemeat pie. My mom used to make that for every Thanksgiving and Christmas too. This fruitcake is also moist. We don't start eating it until Christmas Eve. I've made some "traditional" fruitcake in the past, making my own mincemeat and fruit mix, but they were awful. I keep coming back to this faithful, easy and delicious recipe.     
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I also made bark. In my busy-ness I forgot to add the sprinkles until the chocolate had set. So I put the baking sheets of bark into a warm oven for a few minutes to remelt the chocolate. Then I added the sprinkles so they would set into the chocolate. I think I have enough sprinkles for next year too. Once these pastel ones are used up I'd like to find some red and green ones. I first had this salty/sweet snack in college. When it was first offered to me I thought my friend was crazy. But to be polite I took a taste and I've been hooked ever since. This year I found Ghiradelli candy melts so I thought I'd try them. It's still setting up.
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Then I made some fudge. The simple kind. Why go to more work when simply is decadent...and fast?! In my version, though, I use regular sweetened condensed milk instead of fat free.
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Also different from the original recipe is that I add chopped macadamia nuts to it once the chips are melted. I love the texture! 
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I also made magic cookie bars and pumpkin bread. The bread is going to be part of breakfast on Christmas morning. We'll see how much more I'll do tomorrow. Then I'll save the rest for next week to bake.

The last two evenings I've been making bows while watching Hallmark Christmas movies. This was a bit of a major undertaking that I committed myself to the weekend we decorated the house after Thanksgiving. For years these were simple bows on the wreaths on the windows of our house (Colonial Williamsburg style) and it bugged me for two reasons. Simple bows from the street look skimpy and too small. Also, it seemed a waste to use this gorgeous embossed damask velvet ribbon on the outdoors where no one would ever notice the subtle texture and beauty. Therefore I schemed a relatively simple fix. However the difficulty came in catching my husband before he hung all the wreaths on the windows, upstairs and down. My plan was to switch out the simple bows of the wreaths with the elaborately fluffy bows from the stairwell banister. Those bows were of simple silk, and of a darker hue, burgundy. They would pop more on the house.

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Even so it was mostly up to me to decorate this year, since my husband could only help that weekend and my kids were busy with work and college. I took a deep breath, grabbed the wreaths and made the switch. I was immensely glad when I saw the result from the street. The house wreaths finally looked elegant. That was 4 weeks ago. It wasn't until last night that I finally untied the simple bows to make fluffy bows. One downside is that they are only 2 yards long, so now the tails are not that long. I had enough for each swag. Perfect. I also had 2 more rolls of this lovely ribbon, one partially used. These rolls are 30 feet of ribbon, that I got on sale for $5 at Hobby Lobby a few years ago. So for the three main bows at the main floor of the stairwell I used 3 feet of ribbon. I might end up trimming them down but I like the garland on the stairwell better now. The color is brighter for the dark space.

Hopefully final photos tomorrow! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Crafts from the Past...and Tracking Santa

While digging in my cedar box where Christmas pillows, Christmas books, and memories of all sorts are stored, I found a few treasures from years ago.

When my children were toddlers I made these decorative dish cloths with them to give as gifts to the grandmas, and one for me too! I bought plain dish cloths at the store. Then with craft paints I dipped my kids' hands and fingers into craft paint to create the designs. Not only was it a cute momento, it qualified as proper Sensory Integration activity (texture) too!

This is supposed to be a wreath...

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This one is supposed to be a Christmas tree.

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Then to go way back when I was a little girl, this was my dachshund's Santa Claus costume. My grandmother had it made and mailed it down to us. Duke loved to wear this. The belt attached underneath his belly. The beard used to be attached to the hat with elastic. Not sure if I have a proper picture of Duke wearing this, that would be clear. All those photos from the 70's and 80's are in poor shape. 

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Meanwhile I have lots of Christmas posts to catch up on. I've had a busy month, and a bit of illness that dragged me down. I fell lots better now. I'm busy with holiday preps and have a few ideas in my head to share.

On that note, I think I'll end this kid oriented post with a fun kid activity, tracking Santa with NORAD! As of this writing Santa starts his journey in 4 hours! It's not only fun but a great way to conceptualize (and teach kids) about timeframe across our world, since Santa makes his first delivery at the point of earth that first has nightfall on Christmas Eve. Where would that be? That's a good thought to ponder, then be sure to follow up on the Santa adventures around the world, as he travels to major sites that many of us only get to read about in books!

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Getting Our Christmas Tree as Inspired by Walton's Mountain

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The day after Thanksgiving we went to our local Christmas tree farm to chop down on our own. We had never done this before moving to Virginia. Even though we still have our artificial tree from Texas (which is a pretty looking blue spruce) we can't resist breaking this new Virginia tradition. Well...at least me and the kids. My husband, who is from upstate New York would rather just do the artificial tree. But us Texans, the kids and me, are the ones who want to get a live tree since we never did that before moving here.

Every year that we go, I think of the Walton's first Christmas movie, The Homecoming. Set in 1933 and based on the life of the author, Earl Hamner, Grandpa and John Boy look for the perfect tree on Walton's Mountain to chop down for Christmas. We don't live far from Walton's Mountain outside of Charlottesville, so I think of that every time we drive "over the river and through the woods." All of the road names in the movie are roads that run near our house!

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Grandpa Walton already had the perfect tree selected. When they reached the spot, Grandpa merely pointed out the tree to John Boy who ran over to chop it down.

However we have to do quite a bit of searching. Blue Spruces, my favorite, are available at a slightly higher price, but my kids prefer the soft needles of the Scotch Pine, so that is the type we always get.
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After the shaking of the tree and bagging, we get a drink of hot cider then journey home.
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My kids were busy with work and college but they helped as much as they could...
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...my husband left me branches that he cut from the bottom of the trunk to use for the nativities in the Mexican tradition...
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...and I decorated my first tree since moving here! The kids sort of took over by the time we moved here, leaving me in charge of the rest of the house. Now they are too busy. Even though this tree is only a foot or two taller than our artificial tree, which also means the girth is much wider...it takes much longer to decorate! I hadn't quite realized until now. I used to be done  much quicker, but somehow I got  the decorations up, train set up around the tree and village placed inside the train...at some point after nightfall. The next day I finished the rest of the house.     
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Well, I'm pretty much done. I'm still moving things around here and there and need to finish a touch or two here and there.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

1957 Christmas Party Dress

Every December my husband's office has a Christmas party at a gorgeous country club in Fairfax, Virginia. I have so far worn store bought blouse and skirt #1 and store bought blouse and skirt #2 to the event. Last time a lady who with us found out about my sewing when she asked me..."So what do you do?" That led to her strongly encouraging me to sell my wares...which I still don't think I'm good enough to do. So I showed her photos from my cell phone, but she still loved everything. It only prompted her to take my e-mail address to prompt me to get busy sewing and selling! That strongly led me to think I should start sewing more of my own clothes. I will only improve my sewing the more I sew.
Also, I have been further inspired by Katrina of Edelweiss Patterns because every year she sews 2 vintage Christmas dresses, one for her and one for her mother. 
One of the items on my dream list has been a 1950's Christmas party dress. I settled on this Vintage Vogue pattern from 1957. I did a bit of quick last minute shopping at JoAnn where the options led me to a red satin. As I pulled that from the shelf, I noticed tucked behind it a changeable red/black silk taffeta called Iridescent Red Tango. Well, there would be dancing...not that my husband likes to dance although I thought it would be fun! All 5 yards of 60" fabric and required notions came to a mere $25! 

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Laying out the pattern was not as easy as the directions implied. After playing around with various arrangements I settled with these layouts, done in 3 sets, based on how I had to lay out the selvages.

In this photo the fold is on the right and selvage is on the left.
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Here I brought the selvages to the middle which left the folds on each side.
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Bodice before the facing was added...
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Bodice done...
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Now for the various interesting skirt pieces.
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One corner had to overlap with another (in the third layout shown above) so I pieced the missing part which is now mostly hidden by the hem.
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As I sewed my dress, I matched the directions from the Vogue pattern to my Couture Sewing Techniques book. Since it is my goal to improve my sewing skills and to do more couture type work, I tried to apply every technique I could.

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Edges of the seams were often overcast by hand in couture houses, however the author admitted that in these days of modern  machinery, couture houses often save time (for a cheaper price) by overcasting them by machine. Thus I did what I've always done since I started sewing in the 5th grade. I overcast with a simple machine zig zag stitch. I had no idea that was a couture technique I've been doing.
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Finally the skirt is done and ready to be attached to the bodice...
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I had difficulty keeping the points of the gore, so I sewed those sections by hand, which is how a couture house would have done it. Couture houses do more hand sewing than machine sewing so they have more control for fine detail. It certainly works better for me too! I admire those who can do everything so beautifully by machine. However I am happy to do hand work and am glad to find that the couture book gives me "permission" and moral support to do so! I feel like I am with kindred spirits!
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Another couture technique is to hand pick a zipper, which I did here. I learned how to do this years ago when my mom shared the technique that she had just learned from her Aunt Laura, the one I've mentioned before who used to sew her own clothes and work as an executive secretary in Manhattan years ago. I can't help but conjure up couture  images of her in New York City!
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Only a bit of hand work is left.
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After finishing the edge of the hem, I sewed a basting stitch to guide me to place an even hem. Since I am tall, and had to shorten some of the length because somehow my skirt pieces were of different lengths when I sewed them together, I lost a bit of length. Therefore I preferred to keep as much length as possible, so I made a smaller hem than was recommended by both my pattern and couture book. I hemmed my skirt by hand with a blind hem stitch.
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Hem from the outside while in the process of hand sewing...
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Finished hem from the inside...
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Finished hem from the outside...
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I was hemming miles of this skirt all day long. Thankfully it was finally ready in time for me to get ready for the party! I tried it on with my 1950's petticoat but it was horribly bulky. No matter. I decided to go with a more contemporary look for my 1957 dress. Later I'll work on my petticoat to refine the silhouette. That will be one of my sewing goals for 2016!
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At the Country Club...
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With my husband. How about my big bow purse?
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Pattern: Vintage Vogue 1172

Fabric-Red/Black Changeable Silk Taffeta from JoAnn

Notions-Thread, Zipper

How Long did it Take to Make?-1 week

Cost-$25 (all items were on half price)