Friday, 11 December 2015

Tutorial on how to make (feathered) friends!

A post a bit out of the ordinary this, but as 'tis the season to be kind and compassonate, I want to share with you a great way to score some last minute brownie points with Santa!

It is no big  shock for anyone who knows me, that I am very fond of animals. Always have been, and always will be. I don't disciminate, either. I think all animals deserve to live a full life, and if I can help when things are tough, I will.


Not my photo, but I've had lots of these pretty birds coming to feed :)
source


Winters here in Norway can be hard for our small wild birds. And I guess this applies to many other areas of the Northern hemisphere, too. The daylight hours are few, and the little critters spend most of their day trying to find food just to stay warm. There are no insects this time of year, and seeds can be covered by several feet of snow. It surely is a scramble for survival.


These two fell for my bribery!


So far this winter, it has been very mild and it has hardly fallen any snow. This is good news for the birds, but things rapidly change, and today it is frosty. 

Since having more time on my hands, I have enjoyed setting up a birdy restaurant in our garden. It is right outside of my sewing room (aka the dining room), and I can sit and watch them come in. Mr P even made a copy of our house, with a detachable roof, to put seeds and breadcrumbs in! 




You can buy fat ball for wild birds in various stores, but I have found they are old and rancid and contain quite a lot of sand. Poor value for money, and poor nutrition for the birds. So I decided to make them myself :) And my rep as a birdfeeding establishment has gone through the roof. I now have three times as many different spieces as before, and it is really fun to watch. And I am hoping for squirrels, too :)

Here's how to get new friends. You will need:
  • 500g coconut fat, or (unsalted) lard if you don't mind using animal products.
  • Leftover wholegrain bread (about half a loaf/ 300-400g)
  • 1 cup of rolled oats (use the small, steamed ones)
  • Sunflower seeds without husks
  • 250g peanuts (dried, unsalted, non-roasted) for birds
  • 2 cups of wild bird seed mix
  • Whatever else you have in your cupboard (I found some outdated sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and hazel nuts)
  • Small containers
  • Twine or cord of some sort
Melt the fat slowly, do not let it boil. Put aside.
Take your dry bread and tear into small pieces and put in a blender. Blend to crumbs. Lightly blend your peanuts and various seeds, just to get a bit smaller pieces. You dont need to blend the sunflower seeds, or wild bird mix.
Put all your dry ingredients in a big bowl. Pour over the melted fat, and mix it with a spoon. Get out your twine and cut into foot long pieces, and tie the ends together, forming a long loop. Leave the ends a couple of inches long, as they will secure better in the finished ball. Get out your containers. These can be anything from little yoghurt cups, to coffee mugs or tea cups. Milk cartons or any other cartons, halves of coconut shell, you name it. I used candle holders and coffee cups. Put them on a tray with baking paper (you will spill some.....). Fill your containers, and be sure to put a twine loop in every one. Use a spoon to tuck it down to the bottom. Set to cool.




The recipe is just an idea of what you can put into them. You could also put berries in along the seeds. I have budgies, and they don't always finish all of their seeds, so I blow off the empty husks and save them for when I make wild bird food.




When the balls are completely set, dip the containers it hot water, to get them off. Hang the balls into trees, if you have left overs, put them in the freezer for later.
All that's left is to enjoy all your new birdy company!







Thursday, 10 December 2015

Little works of art!

Hello again!

A few weeks back, I decided to teach myself how to tat.
Now, in 2015 it rather rare to find women happily tatting away on their doilies and chemise-edgings, so I struggled a bit with finding the right tools for the job.

I ended up needle tatting on some tapestry needles, and although it worked alright, I knew I was going to need shuttles for proper tatting. The only ones I could find in Norway was online, and made of plastic. I was not feeling the enthusiasm, and had a look on our beloved Etsy, to see if I could find some that I liked better. What can I say, I like pretty things :)

I came across a Hungarian Etsy-shop called Banyek, that had many different lovely tatting shuttles, hand made in wood. I think I spent and entire evening, looking at all the pretty shuttles, but ended up ordering two. I didn't know which size to go for, so the two are slightly different in size. The smaller on is 2.5" and the larger is 3".





I was very happy with my purchase when they arrived. They were properly packed and shipped by registered mail, and arrived quickly. So if your in the market for a shuttle, Laszlo is your man! I think it feels very good to support small businesses, and talented crafty people.

I tried the smaller one yesterday evening. I have to say, having learnt how to do something one way, and then doing the same thing entirely the opposite way, is quite the challenge for ones brain. I could just feel the new neural pathways forming!!





I struggled a bit figuring out how to handle the thing and hold the thread with the left hand, but after 30 mins (and a few youtube videos later) I got it. The tatting gets much firmer and more even, because I no longer have to keep the stitches loose enough the slide over a needle eye. But there is still a long way to go. The technique is quite different with a shuttle, so I have lots of practicing to do before I have anything remotely worth showing :)






Here you can see the difference in quality. The shuttle tatting is on the left, and is much more even and with smaller stitches. The ring on the right is needle tatted, and has about one third fewer stitches than the other ring. It is floppier and fatter because the stitches are so loose.

I am really excited to get tatting now! I love my Hungarian shuttles :)

Have you learnt any new skills lately?




Tuesday, 8 December 2015

All I want for Christmas is a...... plaid dress?

Ho ho ho, everyone!
Yes, it's drawing near now, isn't it?

When it finally dawned on me just how few weeks there are left until the holidays, I put my Victorian stuff aside for a bit. You have to make priorities, right?




You see, for the last couple of years, I've had grand plans of a plaid Christmas dress of some sort. But every year has been the same; so many plans, so VERY little time! Since becoming unemployed, that is not the case this year, and I will  finally (hopefully) have a me-made dress for Christmas! Yay :)
I opted for a dress not too dressy, just classic lines and a bit of grown-up appeal.

When choosing the pattern, I wanted one that had something new. I have never made anything with plaids before, so you would think that should be enough novelty for one project... But noooo.
Princess seamed dress for the win!


This is Maudella #5204, in a 35"bust.
I cannot find a year on it, but it's probably mid-sixties.


I think princess seams was why I initially bought this pattern in the first place, because the cover art design is not something that awakens my desire, if you catch my drift. Man, those ladies have properly sloping shoulders!! Luckily, the pattern inside was not made for nearly as extreme anatomical features, and my first muslin fit me beautifully with no alterations other than adding a smidge in centre front and back panel. I didn't take any photos before I took apart the pieces, to use as pattern for my fashion fabric.

Now, on to the cutting. I tried to be a brain-monster and get it all right, but you know how when you really concentrate on something, another detail that is usually a no-brainer goes wrong? Right.
So I managed to match the horisontal lines, but as I discovered when assembling the six main pieces, the two front sides, and the two back side pieces did not quite mirror each other. It is not anything glaringly obvious, but it is kind of annoying. I have extra fabric left, but I am still debating whether I'll make the jacket to match. I'll take some measurements of the faulty side piece, and if I can use it for the jacket, I might re-do. Otherwise, it is just a big waste of fabric for such a cosmetic flaw. So I am trying to live with it for now :)


Doh-moment!


I am sorry for this rubbish phone-photos, but you get the general idea. This is the back half of the dress on my ironing board, and as you can see, those two sides are not "on target". The front is better,

My plaid is a lovely wool blend fabric, that is nice and light. I will obviously need to line it because of the itch-factor, but I think I'll be fine on that one. My plan is to just make up a second dress in lining fabric and drop it inside. How hard can it be, right?

It's panning out to be a fun project with lots of new things to learn, and hopefully I'll have a finished dress to show you shortly! In the meanwhile, I wish you lots of success on your Christmas preparations ;)

Toodles!




Thursday, 3 December 2015

Making a lobster tail tournure (pt.1)

Hello!

Next step in my Victorian outfit is the bustle support that goes under all your skirts, to make the famous big victorian butt! Back in the day, these came in lots of different varieties and a lady probably had more than one, to suit her different dressing needs.



source

From the V&A museum.

source
source


I decided to make mine without a pattern. If you think about it, it is just a simple half-dome shape that needs to be collapsible (lengthwise) for when you sit down. And with all the excellent photos around of extant garments, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

I also did look for tutorials online, and remembered seeing one at the American Duchess blog. I used that as my starting point. To make the back panel that holds the boning channels and gives the whole thing it's shape, I started with a piece of fabric 30x32 inches, that were folded in half along the shorter side. I drew on the curve for center back, cut off the excess, and made a french seam along this now curved edge and all the way down.

Pardon the wrinkling, this is actually on the inside
of the thing. Mid construction.


Next was marking the boning channels. Now, I made my bustle using just a single layer of fabric, so making channels would require a way to encase the boning. I didn't want two layers of fabric for the whole thing, as the muslin I used would get very heavy if doubled. There is finished boning tape on the market, but since I now find myself on a budget, I had to think of something else.





In hindsight, I don't know how smart this was, but I decided to make ruffles! They certainly add volume, but I am not sure how they will behave under petticoats. I only hope they don't get all lumpy. If it all fails, I've learned a valuable lesson, and it is quick to make a new, unruffled one. Also, when thinking about it, the bustle is probably heavier now, with ruffles, compared with using  two layers in the back panel.... Doh!
Oh well, if anything, it looks cute...

So I marked the boning channels on my back panel first. By the way, I suspect the drawing on the AD page to have an error. If you look at how the channels are placed on the sideview drawing, the ends of the two top ones are further apart at the sides. In my head this does not make sense. They need to be closer together, to form a rounded dome shape. (Other than that small niggle, the tutorial is fantastic!) So at this point, I put aside the tutorial, and went with my instincts.

I sewed the gathered ruffles ontop of the marked lines, and then did a second seam (7mm) under it to form a boning channel. The ruffles are placed so that they cover the top of the next one. The sides of the top two are tapered towards the sides, because the channels are closer here. I found it looked better like this.

Top ruffles are tapered at the sides, so wider/longer at the centre.


 For boning I went to the hardware store and got a drain cleaner! These are better value for money than corset boning, and I didn't have to order it from the UK. It came in a 7.5m coil, which I then cut into the lengths I needed. I filed the edges round, and applied 5 coats of nailpolish to every end. I left them to completely dry for a couple of days. These steps are important, so the boning doesn't cut its way through your fabric.




If you ever decide to try drain cleaner spring steel, get a decent quality. I first bought a very cheap one, that I could bend with my fingers. Obviously, this would not hold up to wear and would quickly get dented and loose it's shape if I were to sit on it. Get steel that spring back to it's shape when bent and released. Most does this, but just be aware.

I decided to just bone the top half, so only four bones. I don't think it is necessary to bone it all the way down, but I might be wrong. I also wonder if it needs to be this long, but I'll leave it for now.
One of my bones ended up slightly too long, so this is how far I have come with my bustle. Just waiting for the nailpolish to dry on the new bone now :)  Next is attaching the tie strings on the inside, and then the side panels and waistband.



Friday, 27 November 2015

Corset storage bag - and how you can make one, too!

Hello again!

I'm back, to show you all my latest project I told you about the other day.
After making my corset, I found I needed something to keep it in. You know, to keep it free from dust and to protect it from anything that could harm it, like zippers or velcro. Something good for travelling, too. I needed a storage bag of some sort, and here it is!





I drafted a pattern for it myself, after measuring the length of my corset. It is really just a simple drawstring bag, with a round bottom. It is made from two layers, and all raw edges are encased for a clean look. I used plain white cotton, but I bet a nice 1880s lady would have had a silk bag for her corset.





I knew I wanted some embellishment on it, and first considered doing a monogram like on the chemise. But then I remembered my tatting. Wouldn't it be nice with a little bit of me-made lace? Yes:) (funnily, I now want to put tatted edges on everything...)







I think it turned out super cute, and I am very happy with it. It made up in a couple of hours, and looking at it, I think it would be great for other things, too. Like storing shoes in, perhaps. Maybe as a gift wrapper, something to stick a winebottle into, to give to a friend?

So, although I know you are all capable of making up your own stuff, I've decided to add a little how-to if anyone want to make their own storage bag :) It is a quick, easy project, perfect for a beginner sewist.

For one bag, you will need:

  • two rectangles (50x60cm), and two circles (20cm in diameter) in the fabric of your choice
  • two metal eyelets/grommets
  • a ribbon about two feet long


Here's how you do it:
  1. Stitch together the shorter sides of your rectangles, 1 cm seam allowance. Press seams.
  2. Pin or baste one of the round pieces to each of your tubes (making sure the raw edges are facing the same way). You now have to bag-like objects.
  3. Set eyelets in your outer bag. Place them about 1" (2.5cm) apart, and 9cm from the (raw) top edge. (I placed mine at the center front, the side seam of the bag is center back.)
  4. Take one of your bags, and turn it wrong side out. Put the other bag inside the first, so that right sides are facing each other and you can see raw edges both inside and outside of your bag.
  5. Line up the side seam of your two bags, and the top edge, neatly. Stitch together at top, leaving a 2" (5cm) gap.
  6. Turn your bag right sides out, through the gap in the top. You now have one long sausage-like object with all raw edges enclosed. Tuck the one half that doesn't have eyelets, inside of the other, to form a bag. Press the top edge, and hand stitch the gap closed from the right side.
  7. On the outside of your bag, mark the stitching lines for the drawstring channel. Measure from the top edge, and have your eyelets centered between the two lines. Mine are approx. 2cm apart. Do not place the lines too close to the eyelets, or you will have trouble with your presser foot hitting (and sliding off of) the eyelet when stitching. I used my zipper foot for the seam, which enables the seam to get quite close to the eyelet.
  8. Thread the channel with a suitable ribbon.
Congratulations! You have made a corset storage bag!!




Thursday, 26 November 2015

Learning a new skill - A very Victorian pastime!

Hello everyone!
My first week of unemployement has passed, and I am struggling a bit to adjust. I have been quite restless, but at the same time I can't seem to get anything done. So I decided to learn a new skill! And what could be more fitting than the most popular handcraft amongst Victorian ladies, tatting!
Or Nupereller, as it's called here in Norway (yes, chew on that, my foreign friends :)


Beautiful tatted border
source


I have always loved the look of tatting, but never even heard of anyone doing it around where I live.
And when I tried to get the tools for it, it became evident that this is NOT a popular pastime for 21st century Norwegian women.... Who knew?
I mostly got blank stares when explaining what I was after. *sigh*

Tatting uses special holders for the thread, called shuttles, or long blunt needles. Shuttles are for more elaborate work, so I am saving that for when I have more grip of the process (pun intended). As I couldn't find the right needles I bougth some long tapestry needles, and had Mr. P grind off the points for me. Bless him :) It will have to do for now.

The technique for tatting is basically to make knots and loops of thread, which together form a lace-like structure. When needle tatting, you form a sequence of knots on the needle, and then slide them off onto the thread that's in said needle. For this you want a needle that has an eye not thicker than the needle itself, and those are hard to find over here. They are also very long, about 5-7 inches. If you use shuttles, this is not a problem, but it uses different hand positioning and is said to be trickier to learn, and master.


Tatting using a shuttle
source

After deciding to dive into tatting, I was surprised to see just how versatile this technique is There is obviously the classic doily, and numerous border designs. But also tatted jewelry and even Christmas ornaments, bookmarks, collars and belts. 


Vintage border/inlay pattern
source


Found on Etsy, here.

Tatted Christmas ornament
Source


My first attempts were rather sad looking. But as I started to get familiar with it, I soon discovered that not only was it quite easy to do, but also quite addictive and fun! I spent an evening just making friends with my needle and thread, and figuring out tension and such. By the end of the first day, I was happily tatting away on my first little border. There are lots of free patterns around, so no need to run out of projects to try, even for a newbie :)

This little border is destined for a special project, soon to be finished. It is turning out rather lovely, can't wait to share it with you all!


My first tatting project! Yay :)


 I also tried my hand on a little snowflake, still in progress!




Have you ever tried tatting? Or do you have another favorite technique?



Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Golden Jubilee Corset - LM#100 Silverado pattern

Finally!
King Winter arrived in the wee hours this morning, and sprinkled us with glorious white snow. And that usually means light enough to get half decent photos taken! (But rather typically; by the time I was all dolled up and laced in, daylight was fading...)












My victorian chemise and drawers have been waiting for this moment for several weeks already, but my corset got it's last stitches done on Sunday. I still haven't flossed it, due to a lack of a long enough hand sewing needle and silk thread. But other than that, I think it's done!

The corset is made from three (!) layers of coutil. The fancy outer coutil seemed a bit stretchy and unstable, so I basted it together with a layer of strong white cotton coutil. I also used this as my lining. In hindsight I could have used something lighter for lining, but I didn't have anything suitable in Le Stash. I used some lighter cotton fabric for my second muslin lining, and that ended up showing the inside seam allowances which wasn't a good look. At least, this corset is very sturdy, you could probably hoist a horse with it :)

This particular corset pattern has bust gores, which means there are six layers of fabric at the seams, meeting up in the gore points. Bulk festival.
I tried to grade down the seams as much as possible, so there wouldn't be any pressure points over my ribs. I can just feel a small lump at the gore nearest the front when I wear it. I just hope it doesn't end up being painful. I wore it for a couple of hours, and it felt fine. Fingers crossed.

All the inside seam allowances are cast over by hand. It took a whole day, but it was strangely satisfying.


Mid-construction. Hand cast seams, and in the process of putting in the waist stay.


When I decided on my project, which dates from 1887, I did some research on what was big in the news this particular year. As it turns out, Queen Victoria herself had her Golden Jubilee this very year, so I decided to honour the dear gal with a small token inside my corset :)

The little embroidery was done on the lining fabric before assembly. I just made a quick rough sketch with a marking pen, and free-handed it. It is the same style as the monogram on the chemise. I was afraid the crown would look like a chimp doodle, but I am happy to see it actually resembles a little crown.





I just love it when the stars align like that, my corset coutil and the golden busk and grommets were all chosen before I learned about the Royal Jubilee. It would seem like some costume sewing fairy godmother is watching over this project! Oh, may it last!

Making a corset isn't difficult, but it is a lengthy process with many steps. The pattern adjusting and the fittings are the most important ones, and I think one needs to make quite a few corsets to get it right. I am pleased with my first proper corset, but I learned loads of things I will do differently on the next one. Plus, I need to get more practice with things like grommet setting and working with densly woven fabrics in multiple layers.

If I am to say anything about the Laughing Moon pattern, I highly recommend it for first time corsetiers. It has patterns for everything you see me wearing in these photos (not the silk robe), so good value for money. The instructions are very good, too. If you are looking for a big waist reduction, I find this pattern to be not very curvy. I added a lot of hip spring to the pattern pieces, and still wish I had some more. But those are fitting steps everyone need to do for themselves in the muslin stage, so totally normal.

The chemise and drawers pattern is also nice, but I don't like the rounded shapes on the chemise front yoke, just over the bust. It looks odd to me, because it doesn't mirror the shape of the corset top. Personal preference, I guess, my next one will be shaped differently. And have lots more lace!! Other than that, it has a nice close fit at the top that will not add any unnecessary bulk under bodices.

I also got a lesson today about lacing oneself into a corset when your chamber maiden has her day off. It is hard. I broke a sweat, and my arms nearly fell off. And a mirror just makes it worse! I guess it gets better with practice, but I wish I could have gotten it tighter, and a bit more even for the photos. Oh well.














If you managed to read your way down here, you are a champ!
Next up, wire bustle and heaps of petticoats!!!