Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anyone else excited for Doctor Who?

Is is pure coincidence* that tonight is the first episode of brand new "Doctor Who", and on the back of a kids' meal, I found this.....

And a close-up if you didn't catch it.....

And to make it even more awesome, check out the episode synopsis: "The time-travelling trio visit the Utah desert for an adventure that takes them to the Oval Office circa 1969...."

*cue eerie music*

And if anyone is saying "but Noelle, you promised that this blog would be costuming/sewing/crafting-centric!", may I present to you the following:

Exhibit A (weeping angel costume of win)

Exhibit B (various and sundry Who costuming)

Exhibit C (more Who crafts than any one sane person can handle. Warning, you'll be wowed by all the creativity!)

*I think not.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Interesting caps




Ladies of southern Silesia—a region that was part of German Prussia when this photo was acquired in 1926, though it is now located in Poland—model caps that marked a woman's marital and social status. Made of silk, the elaborately decorated bonnets and their wide, trailing ribbons were often worked with gold and silver threads, sequins, and glass beads. But fashions fade. Noted the inscription on the back of this photograph: "These beautiful Silesian caps are no longer seen except on very old women."
—Margaret G. Zackowitz

Quick Headband Tutorial

Take one cheap headband, and some ribbon slightly wider than said cheap headband.


I’m going to be putting a bow on the side, so that’s where I’m going to do my join.  So, you’ll need to measure how much ribbon (doubled) is needed to cover the headband.


Stitch right up next to the each edge of the ribbon, making a little casing.  I folded the ribbon in half so the nice folded edge will be at the ends of the headband.


Now you’ve got a covered headband, but there is still an unsightly join to deal with.  You can cover it with a big flower, a bow, or just wrap it with a ribbon.


I stitched down the bow, and then used the center “knot” to wrap completely around the headband and hide the join on the inside as well.


And here it is, modeled by one of the people who happened to be in my sewing room today.  Thanks, Michelle!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Dress

Apart from the hem, the Easter Extravaganza is complete!  I’m not terribly happy with the way the sleeves turned out, but overall, it’s a fairly good attempt, methinks.  If I lived in California, I would have bugged my cousin Jessica to help me with this project….I’m not sure what I could have done to make it better, but all I know is she does it way better than I. 

Speaking of my cousin, you should go check out her blog, it’s fabulous!  She’s insanely crafty – in a way I’ll never be!

The lighting is really quite bad in this pic – I’ll replace it tomorrow when there is sun out.  The crazy orange thing is a headband I made….


The button in the middle of the mum says “Cute as a Button”.  The headband was super-easy to make, and I think I’m going to make more, since the headbands came in a package of five, and honestly, I’m never going to use them for anything else!


I was running out of steam at this point, but I managed to line a basket, and hot glue (yes, HOT GLUE) some of the same headband flowers to the sides of the basket.  It needs something more – but I think I may need to sleep on it. 


Quick Easter Project & Pattern Prep w/Freezer Paper

I cooked up a plan late last night to make an Easter dress for my step daughter.  It’s only Thursday afternoon – I have plenty of time, right?  (I’m hoping to get some other accessories done as well, but we’ll see….)

So, there’s the pattern I’m going to use:  McCall's #5742.  There is a collar on this dress, and it surprises me that each of the dresses shown don’t use a contrasting color!  I’m going to be doing the petticoat/lining, collar, and waist tie in the bright peacock, and the rest of the dress in the purple patterned fabric.

There are a ton of tutorials out there for making your own patterns for children’s dresses, but honestly, for 99c, I’ll purchase the pattern and save myself the hassle of starting from scratch!  (And then I’ll have time to blog about it, too!


I’m going to switch gears here for a minute and talk about pattern prep and storage.  The first thing you’re going to do is separate out all the pieces of the pattern.  It doesn’t have to be pretty, just hack them apart, but be careful not to slice into the pattern pieces themselves.


Then, iron all your pieces flat.  This is a very important step – whether you go on to the freezer paper or not, you won’t get an accurate pattern cut from wrinkly pieces!


Now this is my favorite part…..jigsaw the pieces on freezer paper, (my favorite sewing friend) and with an iron set on “Medium”, iron the pieces onto the shiny (plasticized) side of the freezer paper.  Go a bit slowly, and be sure not to iron any creases into the pattern – it’ll be permanent!  Also take care that the pieces don’t overlap!


Then cut out all your pieces.  You can cut on the size that you’re going to use, cut around the pattern pieces, or cut the largest size.  (I usually cut out the largest size, and trace smaller sizes, so I always have a pristine pattern)


I like to re-fold my pattern pieces so the piece number is visible whenever possible.  (Makes it a lot easier to find that one piece that you need to grab out of the stack!)


And finally, storage!  I’m pretty terrible about keeping my patterns together, and I’ve found that if I put everything in a large gallon sized Ziploc bag, rather than try to stuff it all back in the original envelope, I’m more apt to keep the pattern all together.


Lace Cap


This cap was one of my very favorite pieces in my antique textiles collection, and one day, I’d like to make a similar one myself!  The eBay seller very unhelpfully labeled it as “Victorian Edwardian Lace Cap”, so I am not sure of the date!

The cap is made from a fine netting mesh – it feels to me like cotton.  It is embroidered with fine thread – probably also cotton.


The back of the ‘cap’ portion is gathered by a thin cotton tape that is fed through a very thin cotton cord attached at intervals along the bottom, creating loops.


The construction of the cap uses the very teeniest flat felled seams I have ever seen in my life!  I can imagine how fiddly it would have been to make everything lie flat around the gentle curve of the gathered lappet.


The outer edge of the lappet and brim are bound by the same cotton tape used to gather the cap.  The stitches are relatively long – about 1/8”.


The embroidery was done in chain stitch with a tambour hook.  Here’s mine – I purchased it at Hedgehog Handiworks…..they are AMAZING.


Each design cleverly uses a continuous line to form the pattern, making each design have only one beginning and end….very smart!  These little flowers were started at the end of the stem, and end in the center of the flower – the entire design is worked counter-clockwise.


The flower designs that cover the back of the cap are 1.5” apart horizontally, and 1” apart vertically, creating a ‘diamond’ offset pattern.  (Each flower is 1/2” x 1/2”)

Cap mini flower

As with the tiny flowers speckling the back of the cap, the brim designs are worked so each individual element is made up of only one line of embroidery.


The wavy and squiggle lines are the edge of the brim, and the dots fill in the space between the large flower design.  (The large flowers are 1 3/4” x 1 1/2”)

Cap border

It has taken me a couple of days to get this post together enough to be able to post, and I was feeling guilty about the radio silence, so I posted what I had this morning – Some things I left out are 1) a scaled pattern of the cap; and 2) a video tutorial on tambour embroidery.  If either of these things are interesting to you, let me know and I will get them posted!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I repaired something! OMG!

Ask anyone – I am the absolute worst when it comes to repairs and mending.  I’d sooner throw a garment out than re-attach a fallen hem.

So, I am extremely proud to announce that I, the worst mender in the multiverse, has re-attached two buttons to a pair of jeans.  I sound over-dramatic, but it’s true.  I’ve been safety-pinning these jeans for 6 months now, and they’ve narrowly escaped the D.I. bin more than once.

But I love these jeans, so I decided to fix ‘em up nice.  Ages ago, my brother gave me a small tin full of antique military buttons.  Buttons that by chance, work perfectly with these jeans!  (Hooray!)


There are a set of five buttons on each pocket that have also popped off – I’m not holding my breath that I’ll ever get around to fixing those (actually quite inconvenient to button pockets closed, but it sure did look nice….)

Comparing Baleen & Reed

I had heard for years from various sources (on the internets) that reed is an acceptable substitute for real whalebone, and last year I decided to put it to the test. 

I ran through whatever “scientific” comparisons I could think of, and below are my results.  I used whalebone boning carefully extracted from one of my least-favorite antique bodices, and the reed I used to bone my Effigy corset.



Split Cane




(Left: whalebone; Right: cane)

Animal – Baleen Whale

protein keratin

Plant – Arundo Donax (Giant Cane)





(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

Dark brown/black





(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

Can be cut/split to any width.

Maximum width ??

(Purchased as 7 mm)

Can be cut/split to any width. Maximum width 7-9cm

(Purchased as 8 mm)




(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

Can be cut to any size. Maximum length 3.5 m

Can be cut to any size. Maximum length 6-10 m



(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

Can be split to any size. Maximum thickness varies – baleen is thicker at the base.

(Purchased as 1.5 mm)

Can be split to any size. Maximum thickness varies – reed is thicker at the root.

(Purchased as 2 mm)




(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

7 mm length = 0.1 oz

7 mm length = 0.1 oz





(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

Bent until ends are ¾ of straight length/ends touching. The baleen did not experience any cracking or breakage. 

Bent until ends are ¾ of straight length/ends touching. The reed did not experience any cracking or breakage.





(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

After the flexibility experiment, the baleen returned to its original, straight shape. I noticed some keratinous fibers slightly separating from the surface after multiple bends.

After the flexibility experiment, the reed returned to its original, straight shape.




(Left: whalebone; Right: cane)






(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

Long keratinous fibers parallel to length

Long cellulose fibers parallel to length




(Left: whalebone; Right: cane)

The baleen splits along the fibers quite easily. I was able to split the baleen with my fingernails.

The reed splits along the fibers quite easily. I was able to split the reed with my fingernails.




(Top: Scissors; Middle: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

The baleen can be cut using regular craft scissors, although it is tougher to cut than the reed.

The reed can be easily cut using regular craft scissors.




(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

Shaping can be achieved by soaking the baleen in warm water and allowing to dry in the desired shape. 

(Note – the curved shape relaxed over time, but did not return to the completely straight line it had before.  I would expect it to eventually straighten if not repeatedly shaped)

Shaping can be achieved by soaking the reed in warm water and allowing to dry in the desired shape.

(Note – the curve did relax somewhat over time, though not to the extent that the whalebone did.  My stays boned with reed retain the curvature of my body though I only wear them a few times a year.)




(Top: whalebone; Bottom: cane)

Sharp corners and edges can be rounded using a file.

Sharp corners and edges can be rounded using a file.