Sunday, August 28, 2011

One Down - 39 More Weeks To Go!

My goodness, did this week ever fly by! I cannot believe that the first week of school is over and the second is ready to begin - of course, by the time Christmas break nears I will be counting the days (and so will my students) for a much needed vacation- lol! 

And what do I have to show for this week, aside from a mound of papers to grade? Why, my red corset! What made me go with a spicy red satin, I can't tell you, but now that I have my corset, it's time to construct my outer garments for the Old West Festival in October. I do have an identical white satin Victorian corset in the works, completely boned, needing only the grommets inserted and the bias sewn on (an up-coming Saturday project) - a girl can't have too many corsets (I figured I'd go with both the Madam and Madonna variations - just keeping it real). 

Speaking of future events, the Regency picnic that Tonia and I host every year is in two weeks - I am very much looking forward to it. Tonia's been giving me a pictorial play-by-play of her and PJ's gowns as they get them done little by little. Both of their gowns are just darling so far (loving the fabric). Even though I had finished my gown for the picnic a couple months ago, I still had sewing to do for it this weekend - Marie's boyfriend (David) needed a shirt for the occasion, so I took yesterday out and sewed him one up. Marie chose the color (like most ladies do when dressing their fellows) - the shirt is a basic yoke style smock, constructed of a medium weight linen, and the cuffs are buttoned rather than tied. I need to remind David not to wash the shirt with anything he doesn't want dyed pink - lol! Although I've washed the fabric, it's far from being colorfast.

I'm beat - it's a good beat, though. The week has been fun and the weekend productive. Time to shuffle to the couch and curl up under my throw - there's a good book and hot cup of tea waiting for me. Bon nuit and happy sewing - :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"As I was driving up the street one day, corn muffins came a rollin' my way..."

No, I have not run away! lol! The start of a new school year is just around the corner, literately! Dayton Public Schools opened last week, and this coming week, the private and charter schools begin. The last week and a half has been packed with to-dos and last minute projects - mainly getting my classroom ready for this week (opening week), inventorying text books, going over the student rosters, finishing up lesson plans, fretting over software updates (as you can see, computers line my walls) - all this on top of painting and redecorating my classroom! I know from the picture my room does not look so impressive (I took the picture with my cell, so all the colors are muted), but the original ecru color of the walls was uglier than Betty - the paint was pealing, the old posters were irrelevant to language arts - it wasn't pretty. Now, the walls are painted a soothing lilac and decorated with wonderful grammar and literature themed art (I can't help but to be excited about it all - lol)! I am sure the students will appreciate the change - I sure do.

On top of school and classroom preparation, I am still working on improvement projects around the house. This last week my youngest daughter and I painted her room (the room she inherited when my oldest daughter moved out). I think we patched over 400 nail holes and honestly, I am shocked the plaster walls held up - lol! Aside from the nail holes (and as Marie and I were painting, we still discovered a couple nails we missed along the way), there was a bit of water damage around the ceiling and smoke stack that needed repaired. But, it all came out very well and the brown walls are GONE! I've been on this purple kick lately - not sure why (and it's not like purple was ever my favorite color, although I do like it), but lately it's been appealing to me.

Brown is the color of pooh...

Bad flashing = water damage

Oooo, Ahhhh!

With my classroom and house sucking away at my attention, I haven't gotten any sewing done. However, I did make a trip to the fabric store to pick up a couple costume patterns (which I collect). Oh, I have to gripe for a moment, if you will: What is happing to Simplicity costume patterns? I wish I could say that I was delighted by their new costume designs this season, but I am afraid that is not so. How many variations of the sensationally slutty kitten costume can one company make (Simplicity has seven alone - 2072, 2074, 3618, 3629, 3685, 4015, 4046)? And worse, they introduced a new kitten costume this year sporting a 1980s balloon skirt - instantly I had flashbacks of my high school prom, suddenly I caught a whiff of AquaNet hairspray, and I thought I heard the ghostly echoing of a Debbie Gibson tune in my head - STOP! No doubt these patterns are big sellers, but what happened to the historical costumes they used to issue at least once a year (Steampunk does not count)? Of course, buyers can look to theatrical pattern companies for historical patterns, but these are usually for the advanced sewer. The commercial pattern companies design their patterns to fit the modern figure, so the garments are generally easier to construct - not to forget that the commercial companies have costumer service representatives available in the countries where their patterns are sold. Commercial costume patterns may not always be historically accurate (usually regarding construction methods), but they are solid patterns that can be made with general ease and are backed by good customer support should a sewer need call for help. Come on, Simplicity, get back on track!

Could it be a...sign?
Finally, one last thought, which has nothing to do with anything, really, except to say that while I have had a busy week, it has been a week of peculiarities, odd little things, like the universe is toying with me - lol! Last Sunday, as I was driving up my alleyway, I suddenly noticed corn muffins - half a dozen or so - rolling down the alley toward me, like someone (or something) decided these would substitute nicely for bowling balls.There wasn't a person or thing in site that I could see to account for this! And yellow birds (orange bills with black tips on their wings) - I don't know what they are, or if they are indigenous to Ohio, but I kept seeing them. It's common to see cardinals or bluejays, but I have never seen yellow birds like these, all the sudden, and in abundance. Then, me and the kiddo encounter a roley-poley family of raccoons chilling on someone's front porch when we were coming back from Chipotle. They were HUGE (I imagine the smaller of the three was a juvenile), out in clear daylight, unafraid, as if they resided there and were enjoying the approaching evening on the porch. I tried to get a picture with my cell to no avail, and no, I wasn't going to get closer - raccoons are mean (had a couple spats with some as a kid on my granddaddy's farm), so we just slowly drove on, watching them watching us. Finally, yesterday afternoon, Marie and I are in the home department at TJ Maxx when we spot this very misplaced and peculiar tin sign situated among the framed artwork (pictured to the right) - wth? lol! I almost bought it to hang in my classroom (because I possess a cheeky, often tactless, sense of humor), but thought it best to resist. I'm not sure what it means, exactly, or what the whole week of odd occurrences mean if anything, but it's all worthy of note. Maybe next week I'll see pigs fly? 

Until then, happy sewing! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Regency Bonnet Tutorial

I decided to make myself a Regency bonnet to match my gown for the Emerald Parlor's Regency picnic in September.  I discovered that there were many good tutorials on-line, but many of them were either missing valuable instructional points, or the bonnets weren't quite what I was wanting (as far as style or shape), so I decided to create my own tutorial. This is a wonderfully creative and relatively simple project that can be put together in half a day - just follow the my basic instructions and add your own fabulous touches of decoration. Before you know it, you will have created a masterpiece worthy of even Jane Austen's approval!

1) No need for a buckram frame - go to your local thrift or Big Box store and purchase a cheapo sun visor from the hat department (make sure that the bill of the visor is flexible straw - you will be sewing it with your machine, so you want something friendly).

2) Gently remove the cloth cap from the straw bill, being careful not to pull or tug too much on the stitching - you do not want the bill to fray.

3) It's best to employ the help of a Molly-head (a styrofoam wig or hat stand) to gage where on the head the bill of the bonnet will rest so that you will know where to place the ties later. Further, it is essential to any creative endeavor that one should own a cheeky ginger cat who displays an uncanny ability to know precisely where he shouldn't lay!

4) No pattern needed! Simply measure around your head to get your hat size (my measurement is 22-1/2 inches). For the body of the hat, cut one rectangular piece of fabric 8" long and twice as wide as your hat measurement (my rectangle was 8" x 45"); for the crown cap, trace and cut out 3" diameter circle; and for the hat bands, cut out two strips of fabric 2" wide and 1/2" longer than your hat measurement (my hat bands measured 2" x 23" each).

5) Fold together the rectangle body of your hat (right sides facing) and sew the shorter ends together; then, pleat your hat body to the 3" crown cap.

6) Once the hat body is pleated to the crown cap, carefully stitch it all in place (you may have to walk your machine needle to avoid breaking it or causing injury to yourself).

7) If you desire to line your bonnet (I lined mine with a stiff muslin behind a black voile to give the bonnet decoration as well as structural support), this is the time to do it. You may repeat steps 1-6 to create the hat lining, or you may do what I did and cut out an 18" diameter circle in the lining and structural fabric and baste it to the inside base of the hat body.

8) Next, fold each hat band in half (right sides facing) and sew the shorter ends together; then, sew one of the bands to the outside of straw bill. After the two pieces are sewn together (the band and the bill), throw them up on your Molly-head to check for fit and position.

9) Take the second hat band and pleat the hat body around its circumference from the inside.

10) Sew the hat band to the body; throw them up on the Molly-head to check for fit and position.

11) With right sides facing (the straw bill will be inverted and slipped over the the base of the hat body) , secure the two hat bands and sew together.

12) This is the time to have your bonnet ties ready to be sewn in - I created mine by folding, sewing, and turning out two 18" voile tubes. You may certainly use ribbon or any other desired material for ties.

13) Insert the ties between the underside band and overside band right at the point where either side of the straw bill tapers to a point; neatly turn in the the underside and overside hat bands, pin, and sew together.

14) Once the hat bands are sewn together, throw the finished basic bonnet up on the Molly-head to check for fit and to check the position of the ties.

15) If the basic bonnet structure looks good, then it's time for decoration! 

For more construction and finishing details of my Regency bonnet, please visit my Flicker page - in the meantime, happy sewing! :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sewing on the Edge...

School will be starting in three weeks and there is so much to get done. The English curriculum across all grade levels has been switched, and as you know, I am delighted! I still have to complete my notes for senior lecture on King Lear before we begin reading the play, and many of my text and test books, test keys, and other teaching materials still have not arrived. In the meantime, there remains quite a bit of classroom prep to do for the 2011-2012 school year, which included (yes, past tense) painting my room (while being very mindful of the 15 computers that line the parameter since they could not be removed) - with the help of my youngest daughter (who's a senior this year!) and my awesome supervisor, we flawlessly cranked out my classroom in 6 hours! My wonderful students will now learn, and I will now teach, in a freshly painted lilac room - it's officially a Taupe-free Zone!

Although I spent most of last week completing Junior lesson plans and the weekend spring cleaning the house (two months into summer - lol!), I made myself two chemises and fit a corset for two upcoming costume events. The white cotton chemise and corset are both for my 1880s costume for the Old West Festival in October, and the natural linen chemise is to be worn under my Regency corset and jumper for the Regency Picnic in September:

Creating and fitting the corset

The pattern

Victorian and Regency chemises

Victorian chemise: cotton lace detail
Today, I will be working on the corset, which will lace both in the front and back rather than merely lace in the back (with metal busks typically in the front). Once the corset is complete and I am able to grab my measurements while snuggly laced-up, I can then begin my late Victorian ensemble for the Old West Festival - yeah!

Happy sewing - :)