Good night, sweet Princess Sunday, Sep 6 2015 

I can’t believe I’m writing this. The very notion seems utterly impossible. But against all reason, somehow our amazing, maddening, crazy princess Ladygirl has left us.

LG montage

Ladygirl was one in a million. The first pup in our litter with a name, she resembled Milord’s childhood dog, Lady, and thereafter resisted any efforts to change her name to something else. Whenever anyone met her and asked her name, the response was invariable, “Of course it is.” She was all princess.

LG was bossy, demanding, uncompromising, and so full of life and love. She was convinced the rest of us were here to pay court to her. As we used to say, “It’s Ladygirl’s world. We just live in it.” Boundaries and rules did not apply to her—unless she made them up. Her attitude toward silly things like fences, baby gates, and the like was a scornful, “Pffft. That’s for dogs.” At age 10 (!!!) she discovered she could jump the babygate that blocked off the dining/sewing room, and routinely would sit on the other side of it, smiling smugly at me. “This room is Ladygirl’s. Those other rooms are for the dogs.”

River Snip

Photo 2011 River Templin

She kind of had delicate health (well, she was a princess, after all—you know how sensitive they can be!), but didn’t live like it. In 2013, when she was 12, she had massive, major surgery to re-route her digestive system (scarring from pancreatitis had crushed her gall bladder bile duct and was damaging her liver), and nearly died from complications. She spent nine days in the ICU… during which time the silly girl charmed the entire staff, who would put heart-shaped stickers on all her bandages.  Ten days later? She jumped over a babygate.

Sadly, one of the complications of that initial surgery and associated issues was a propensity for her to develop aspiration pneumonia, and she’d—we’d—spent the better part of the last year or so fighting off one round after another. Endless courses of antibiotics, daily respiratory therapies, and (the last few weeks) complicated new feeding methods, became her daily routine. And through it all, she bore it like the princess she was—even treating the indelicate task of taking her temperature as though it were a great honor… for me.

The latest round began in June, and we figured she’d fight it off eventually, just like she always had. But she didn’t. She couldn’t. The years of damage to her lungs made it impossible for her to bounce back this time, and when she aspirated again last week, it just overwhelmed her. Wednesday morning she was running across the back yard, barking at the neighbor dogs and informing us archly what she wanted for breakfast. And Thursday night she was gone. That fast.

She’s hopped over one last gate, and I hope she’s smiling smugly down from Heaven at me saying, “That’s for dogs.”

Good-bye, baby girl. Never another like you.

Embroidery Hoopla! Monday, Aug 31 2015 

PHOTOSHOP photoshoot badge whitework CROP

Would you like to see one of my most prized possessions?

You might have seen it before; it has already made a couple brief appearances on the site. But today it deserves a feature of its own.

It’s my hoop. To be more specific, my circa 1905 Gibbs “Princess” brand 6-inch embroidery hoop:

Hoop Whitework 1

That’s right: For the better part of 20-odd years, I have used an antique hoop for nearly all of my embroidery, and it may well have seen more than 100 years of steady use!

Hoop Logo

Gibbs Mfg Co, out of Canton, Ohio, was once the largest maker of embroidery hoops in the world. This 1916 ad is for their more popular style, the Duchess. (I have one of those, too.)

1915 Ad for Duchess hoops

My Duchess and Princess hoops came to me from an estate auction in central Iowa (where I grew up) in the early 1990s. I don’t know their provenance before that, or anything about the needlewomen who owned and used them before me, but I can say these things were built to last! And they are built well. The hype from the ads wasn’t. It’s all true. They really do have the best tension and hold of any hoop, ever—certainly any I’ve ever used, at least. Unlike modern hoops, they’re not adjustable. They don’t need to be. (Technically, Gibbs calls them “automatically adjustable.”) The secret of the Princess hoop is what Gibbs called “the bowspring,” that curvy band of metal shown below (click for full size):

Hoop Spring

It allows the hoop to flex to fit thick or thin fabrics and hold them taut while you stitch. I’ve stitched everything from lightweight needlepoint canvas to heavily-fulled wool kersey, to the finest Irish linens and cotton batistes, and it’s brilliant at all of them. The wood is finely turned, and further burnished to incredible smoothness by its long lifetime in use. The 6″ size is easy on the hands and nicely portable. Gibbs made these hoops in seven sizes, from 4 to 12″. My Duchess hoop is one of the larger ones, and I also have a 10″ Princess from a different auction. But the 6s are my favorites.

1905 Trade Ads

October 1906 trade magazine write-up on “Improved Embroidery Hoops,” featuring the Princess automatically adjustable hoop. Click for larger version.

One of my favorite aspects of being a needlewoman is the connection I feel to generations, to centuries, of needlewomen before me. I don’t have a personal needlework heritage in my own family (my mom was/is a woodworker; and although my grandmothers each sewed all their clothes, stitching was not a pastime we shared or ever did together). So I am connected to my stitching forebears most strongly through my equipment.

So when the Historical Sew Monthly August challenge, “Heritage and Heirlooms,” came up, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.

“We’re honouring history and the future by celebrating our own personal heritage, or creating something that will be a heirloom for the next generation of sewers and makers as we:

re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.”

Badge Extreme Closeup

Although I’ve been stitching nearly all my life, I have only recently joined the Embroiderers Guild of America. One of our first tasks as members is to design and stitch a namebadge to wear to meetings (or they will fine you! A whole 25 cents!!). A while back I stitched (in my 95-year-old hoop!) this little fleur-de-lis, but never made it up into anything. Since I use that piece as my avatar on my online stitching groups, it seemed the appropriate candidate for my badge. I pulled it out (found the floss to go with it!), and added my name and the date I joined the EGA.

Finished Badge Closeup

The back of the badge is a scissor (and class fees!) pocket. The backing fabric is a scrap of printed corduroy from my very first “historical” costume ever, a cloak I made in high school. I still love that fabric (and have worn the cloak as recently as this century). That jacquard trim wandered into the party, and the scissor charm and the beautiful fleur-de-lis scissors were birthday gifts from Milord.

Scissor Pocket Back

I am thrilled to pieces with how this little thing came out, even if it did get a bit carried away! Gilding the lily, anyone?! I have done all kinds of needlework in my lifetime and don’t seem to have any particular style or leaning toward what I make. But this piece… this one is very, very me. I think it’s a perfect expression of my personal needlework heritage, and I will love wearing it.

badge worn

whitework hanky finished

click to zoom

…But while I was prepping this blog post, doing the research on my hoops’ history, I realized I needed to stitch something from the hoop’s own era! So I whipped up this little whitework hanky. The design is from Wm. Briggs’s Album of Transfer Patterns from c.1900 (Dover 1986 reprint—also period-appropriate to when I began using the hoops!). As my 1905 sister stitcher might well have done, I sent away for the fancy work (handkerchiefs) via mail order. The cotton is fine/sheer enough that I was able to trace it directly over the page in the book. The book does not suggest which stitches or weights of thread to use, but the design itself does. I used primarily a mix of stem stitch and lazy daisies (detached chainstitch), with a couple fly stitches and straight stitches tossed in for good measure. Two strands of floss for the bolder bits; one for the finer ones. I like the way the stranded cotton photographs against the sheer hanky fabric.

So there you have it. From 1905 to 2015, my beloved heirloom hoop in good use.

Challenge Details:

What the item is: 100 Years of Embroidery Heritage. Whitework Handkerchief, and Renaissance Revival Chatelaine, stitched on an antique embroidery hoop from 1905.

The Challenge: #8, August, Heirlooms & Heritage

Fabric: For the whitework, cotton batiste ready-made handkerchief with crochet cotton lace. For the chatelaine, natural linen with metallic gold accents. The backing fabric is vintage printed corduroy from the early 1990s.

Pattern: Whitework, Wm Briggs & Co Album of Transfer Patterns, 1900. Chatelaine, Fleur de lis motif from Abbey Lane Designs “A New Beginning” spot sampler, 2005 by Susan Gastler. Construction, My own, based on previous finishes.

Year: Whitework, 1905. Chatelaine, 2015.

Notions: Whitework, DMC stranded cotton. Coton a broder would have been the preferred choice then and now, but stranded cotton was also widely available and what I happened to have on hand. Chatelaine, DMC rayon embroidery floss, jacquard trim, cardstock & batting for mounting, twisted cord, scissors charm, and pearl-head straight pins.

How historically accurate is it? The whitework is extremely accurate: Original period design, stitched on reproduction (or rather, ongoing-production!) period fancy goods, with authentic antique equipment from the era. About the only inaccurate part was the electric light I used to stitch it by! The chatelaine is also “accurate” to 2015—a modern heirloom using heirloom tools and modern/vintage materials. 🙂

Hours to complete: Whitework, about an hour. Chatelaine embroidery, unknown. Chatelaine finishing, a little over two hours, maybe? (Unless we’re counting Thinking Time, in which case it’s closer to about 10!)

First worn: I debuted the chatelaine last week at my EGA meeting. I don’t really know when I’ll have an occasion to carry the hanky—perhaps it will go in a hope chest to be passed down or discovered by someone in another 80 years.

Total cost: Oh, I wish I knew! The hoops came in an auction lot twenty-five years ago or so, and I have absolutely no idea how much they cost or what they might be worth. I have seen them on ebay and etsy for wildly varying costs, and typically they come in lots of several older hoops. I think you could expect to pay around $20 US for a lot at auction; probably much less at a yard sale or thrift store for a single hoop. The hankies were 3 for $10. The embroidery design came from a Dover book that I purchased, but many similar period needlework books are digitized online for free. For the chatelaine, everything came from stash except the pins.

This has been my very favorite HSF challenge so far. What a wonderful way to do honor to those who came before us, and to the ongoing work that we do.

(And for anyone keeping track, these mark Projects #6 and #7 of my Project 41 Challenge.)



An Eventful Post & Project Update Wednesday, Aug 12 2015 

So I actually have a job, if you can call it that. I do something that brings in income, but it’s, as Sheryl Crow might say, a comic job—sometimes it seems almost silly to call it a job, when I’m having so much fun!

Pym and Steph

At Bartle Hall with editor Hank Pym (aka CJ Bunce)

This weekend (last weekend now, I guess) was the inaugural Kansas City Comicon #KCCC2015 where and I shared a booth again! I signed books for fans and hung out with The Cool Kids.


With local authors Colleen Boyd and Bethany Hagen

Sunday I joined fellow local authors Colleen Boyd (far right) and Bethany Hagen (center) for a panel on YA fantasy. Our intrepid moderator did a fabulous job steering our conversation of writing process, feminism, and teen agency. Well done, crew!

Friday was, surprisingly, my best sale day. Call me cynical, but I suspect it had something to do with the awesome steampunk outfit Milord got me for my birthday.

ecb at kccc 2015 day 1

Saturday was our big cosplay day. CJ/Milord reprised his Radagast, and I debuted a new Hobbit ensemble, which was a big hit, not just with the fans, but with guests as well!

sean rad mim

Yes, that’s Samwise himself, actor Sean Astin

We were invited to join the group photo that LOTR cosplay group Springfield Fellowship took with Sean, but you’ll have to take my word for it, since we haven’t gotten our copy yet (stay tuned!). In the meanwhile, you may have seen this, from the same photoshoot:

All the Springfield Fellowship costumes were amazing, but I was particularly taken with this dwarf (rarely seen!):

Stacey Dwarf

As always, it was wonderful to see all the fans, friends, family, and fellow cosplayers out at KCCC15, and hoping for another great show next summer!

A very quick Project 41 Update! Thanks to Epic Cosplay Projects, I’ve completed Projects 2, 3, 4, and 5!

hobbit chemise underpetticoat wip    Phone petticoat

Hobbit bonnet

2.) Quilted petticoat, 3.) Chemise 4.) Outer petticoat, and 5.) hat! More details on the Hobbit Page!

Spring & Summer Sewing & Introducing Project 41 Tuesday, Jul 14 2015 

I have been so busy the last couple of months–back at work trying to FINALLY finish The Book That Won’t End (Since The Neverending Story has been taken), scurrying about taking care of Family Medical Drama (another thing that won’t end, but it is what it is, so), joining guilds left and right… and SEWING! So much sewing! In April I got a new serger, a Really Nice One, and have been experimenting with knits and mundane clothing!

I made a tunic, New Look 6323:

NL Tunic Montage

(More info here)

…And a lace maxi skirt (my first foray into squidgy linings, and it really wasn’t that bad), New Look 6288, sort of:

NL maxi skirt

And some tarted-up kitchen towels for my MIL. There was actually a third one, in turquoise, but evidently I didn’t feel it necessary to photograph it (?):

Judy Towels edited

And a tote bag that had been a tea towel:

Tea Towel Tote Bag

…And a couple other things that rightfully deserve their own posts (and having written that, I’ve typed the death knell for those posts! Ha!).

But another thing that I did… was turn 41 (see wrapped-up presents in the tote bag staging!). I didn’t really do anything momentous last year, to commemorate turning 40 (unless you count losing 20 lbs, becoming a runner, and buying a new washer/dryer)… so this year I wanted to challenge myself (because my life is way too easy, HA!). In between Epic Costume Projects, I’ve been squeezing in fun little makes here and there, and they are so rewarding! I want more of that in my sewing life. And I want to be freer, bolder, and more experimental overall. Sewing is a good way to practice all of those Valuable Life Skills (and also math, which I hear is useful sometimes), so I am setting myself the ambitious challenge of sewing 41 projects this year (July 3, 2015 — July 2, 2016). To those of you who whip up a zone-front gown in a morning, this will sound like nothing. But I normally get in about a dozen projects, if I’m lucky. This will require me to churn out 3.5 things every month. It will mean lots more smalls (!!!), and lots less second-guessing and talking myself out of things before I get started. And possibly also some creative math. Ahem.

I have tons of stuff lined up already, and my very first Completed Project 41 Make to share! I finished this last week, about 6 days in to the year:


The World-Famous McCall Peplum Cardi! (6844). What a super-quick project, and a great inauguration to the challenge!

It’s made from some scrumptuous sweater knit I accidentally ordered from Fabric Mart. I was at an outdoor party one recent chilly evening, when I was struck with an overwhelming urge for a fancy little cardigan to toss over party clothes. A gold one. So I ordered what looked like sparkly gold fabric from FM, but got this interesting salt-and-pepper stuff instead:

FM silver sweater knit

It’s OK… I never wear grey, but I look terrible in gold anyway, so it all worked out.

And now, the week is ticking away on Project #2 (a quilted petticoat for an upcoming cosplay event), and 3 (some pillows for my mom), so I should go. And there’s that book thing going on, too, so. Back in a few with the next project!

In Memoriam Sunday, May 3 2015 

Pigeon Montage

On Friday, I said good-bye to one of the neatest friends anyone could ever have, the extraordinary, silly, sassy, unsinkably happy Gracie Pigeon. She would have turned 14 today (although DH says there were at least two Leap Years in there, so we’re counting it!). Gracie was one of 9 littermates, the puppies of this dog, and twin sister to this one, both of whom have been gone now for a while. Pidge was a 29-month cancer survivor, going through her third round of chemo for lymphoma. On her protocol, the median survival time is 13 months (and she was already an old lady when she started!). She shattered that. And she beat lymphoma, soundly. Three times. But 14 years is a long time, and finally this week her amazing heart gave out. She left us, peacefully and suddenly, having made a dozen new friends at the ICU. Because that’s just who she was. Our silly extrovert. There will never be another one like her.

Thanks, Sillypants, for everything.

Cutest Happy Dance Ever (or The Sally Dresses!) Thursday, Feb 26 2015 


If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ll know that my 2014 Christmas sewing was delayed due to injury. *Sigh* One—or, more properly, two—of the projects that got way off schedule were tiny dresses for my tiny nieces, who just turned 2. I’d never made baby garb—I mean clothes—before, and I can tell you one thing with confidence: THEY ARE FUN. Seriously, serious fun. Everything is wee! So everything is *fast.* And you can go bonkers playing. Which I did.



These dresses are the super-adorable Sally Dress from Very Shannon, which comes in every children’s size possible. That was one of the things that appealed to me about it; the other was that with very little wrangling, this silhouette could easily be made to look more period-correct for the 16th century. Win!

The dress is designed for light-medium weight wovens; I used corduroy from my stash, which is just a bit heavy for the project. Some of the aspects of the pattern benefited from a little modification (frex, the pockets are designed to be sewn into the side seams and hem; my cord meant this design feature was kind of bulky, but I made it work).


I sewed Tavie’s rust elephant frock first. I loved the two fabrics together but thought that the pockets looked a little bit lonely in all that orange—so I decided to bind the bodice! (You will know that I bind things willy-nilly whenever the opportunity presents itself. Wee bodice? Perfect!) With the bodice bound and lined, it seemed silly to have raw edges inside the skirt, so I did my first Hong Kong finish on the seams (did I mention the thing I have for binding?).  The gathered skirt also wasn’t a great option for this fabric, so I went with pleats instead.

Now’s a good time to point out how very customizable this simple little dress pattern is!


Literally minutes after finishing the hem on Tavie’s dress, I completely mangled my left hand with a can opener (the can, to be precise), and could not get back to little Irene’s little dress for ages and ages (wails and sobs). And then I made my mom’s cape, and then FINALLY…

Irene Owl Dress canon 1

OWLS! Irene and Tavie are fraternal twins, but even if they were identical, they wouldn’t be identical, so I wanted their dresses to be the-same-but-different, too. The applique and feather stitch detail took the place of the binding, and the rounded patch pockets (and flat-fell side seams) were to skirt (ahem) the problems with the bulky fabric/pocket issues I had with Tavie’s dress. And the feather-stitched hem? I ran out of green thread! (The loden green corduroy is really hard to photograph; the picture above is the most accurate.)

Irene Owl Pockets

Irene Owl Dress armscye applique liningIrene Owl Dress back

So much cuteness and fun in such tiny projects!

Finished (at last) Woodland Stroll cape Tuesday, Jan 27 2015 


Ohthankgawd. This project started out doomed, and I only barely snatched it from the jaws of death, but in the end I’m pleased enough with how it turned out.

It all started when… I found this really cute Green Pepper hat pattern in my stash, and decided to whip it up in a really luxurious fabric for my mom for Christmas.

I was delighted when I found wool fleece at Mood—I have an Early Winters wool fleece jacket that is amazing: rich and lofty and soft and just the perfect blend of luxury and utility. Trusting Mood’s reputation (and pressured by Cyber Monday), I ordered 1.5 yards without a swatch.


It came, it was gorgeous, it was everything you could want in wool except… IT WAS NOT FLEECE. It was flannel. And it was reeeeelly expensive. Thankfully, the wonderful folks at Pattern Review stepped up with suggestions for alternate uses for my tiny piece of glorious (acid green!) wool. When the Liesl/Oliver+S Woodland Stroll Cape came up, it seemed like the perfect solution. Great reviews, looks awesome made up, takes only a yard and a half of fabric, reports that it “can be made in a morning…” Done. Plus I could tell my mom would love it.

I gathered the rest of my supplies–houndstooth lining, leather kilt straps for fasteners (both b/c I loved them on the model and b/c I don’t do buttonholes), printed out the pattern, and…

Incapacitated myself for the rest of 2014 with an unfortunate run-in with a can of pumpkin puree that resulted in four stitches, a tetanus shot, and a splint on my left hand until after Christmas. Erg. Fortunately, I knew this would give me time to fit a mockup on Mom when she came to visit for the holidays, so that was good! And to confirm that she would, indeed, love to have an acid green wool flannel walking cape! Whew.

Unfortunately, by the time I could finally get back to working on it, I had completely lost my mojo. Just after New Year’s is never the ideal time to do your Christmas sewing. Ah, well–no choice but to forge ahead.


For the most part, the pattern is as nice as commonly reported. It’s simple (three pieces) and makes up reasonably quickly… but it wasn’t a great match for me (I remembered why I only do a bag lining every five or six years. Oy.). I also ran into trouble with the neckline facing, which did not fit the lining piece. It seems to be a drafting error (and a recent one?), because another user reported the same issue on the Oliver+S blog. Thanks to some coaching from Jenn and a make-it-work attitude, it turned out beautifully… but further diminished my enthusiasm for the project. *Sigh*


Also, I ended up having to piece the lining b/c I ran out of fabric (the pattern calls for 1.75 y, and I had a yard and a third), but it turned out wonderfully inconspicuous (and forever invisible, as I forgot to snap a photo). I further soothed myself with understitching the lining in place by hand (not just on the facing, all around the perimeter), a nice tailoring technique which the glorious fabrics just deserved. And then, egad, the toggles. The toggles. Lots of drama, ultimately saved by hand-sewing.


All in all, it really did turn out pretty damn smashing (I absolutely love the combination of acid green wool with the on-trend houndstooth lining, plus the black leather fasteners) although it took considerably more than “a morning”… And I am really damn thrilled to have this piece done and off the desk, so I can get back to the other Christmas sewing that was put on hold by injury: Tiny Toddler Twin Dresses.

Hopefully Mom will get some pix for us of her wearing it!

Fitted English gown debut! Thursday, Oct 9 2014 

It’s done! It’s done! That little project Raven and I started a “couple” of months ago is finished, and finally made its debut last weekend at KCRF. Alas, I ran out of time to finish a proper hat and sleeves—but that’s what the Garb Closet is for! Milord’s hat and a pair of sleeves I made for my MIL were admirably up to the task.

Fitted English gown of duck green velvet, lined in bronze taffeta. From the Tudor Tailor pattern.


The day was fairly rushed and hectic, so we didn’t have time for a proper, all-angles photoshoot, but here are some of the best shots we did manage.


The trim is a gorgeous rayon gimp braid that is actually a dead match, color-wise, for the teal velvet and brown taffeta… but for some reason it photographs much lighter. (Click & zoom!)


The velvet began as two curtain panels from World Market, originally purchased to make a short jacket/waistcoat (I think there’s a page here on that project). I was planning to use some charcoal grey wool for this, until I saw Laura’s beautiful purple version, and realized how pretty this could be in a rich color. If the lining looks familiar, that’s because it’s the exact same fabric as my Valkyrie skirts. (It’s great stuff!)


Lucas de Heere’s sketch of English women, circa 1575

Mostly the project went together fairly easily. We had a couple of hangups (I lost almost 20 lbs during the course of the pattern fitting, which threw some things off. I ended up having to alter down the size 16. Had I known what my final size would be, I should have started with the 12. No way to predict that at all.). I made my standard narrow shoulder/center back seam alterations to the bodice, and fiddled a bit with the fit of the cut-on stand collar, thanks to coaching from Jenn at Centuries Sewing.

Certainly the most complicated part was the sleeves. There are thirty-four (34!!) separate pieces involved, from the structural layer (with boning!) to the puff to the lined panes, not to mention the binding and the cuff! Arranging everything so they looked pleasing was fiddly and fussy, and if I were to do this again, I would definitely stabilize the cuff with an additional layer of something; all that handling and manipulation left them looking a bit limp, instead of crisp. Happily, the trim stiffened them up nicely! Of course, I made the project more complicated by using velvet—each sleeve is a mirror image of the other, and every separate pane is different. I was VERY careful not to mix up my pieces, pinning them to a cork board, in order, while I figured everything out (and then when I actually got ready to put them together, DROPPED THEM ON MY FURRY KITCHEN FLOOR AND MIXED THEM ALL UP. Ahem.). But it all turned out all right in the end.

One very nice thing about this project is that it’s very amenable to hand-sewing. Except for the long seams (sewing the main bodice and skirt sections together) and some of the sleeve construction, everything was done by hand. Inserting the lining, making up the panes, binding the armscyes, and tacking on twenty five miles (ok, 10 yards, twice) of trim… lots and lots of handwork. Fortunately, I love to hand sew, so this was more pleasurable than onerous. I did have to break out my machine’s walking foot to power through inserting the sleeves (remember the 34 pieces? Yeah.), and for the record: it is impossible to machine sew velvet to taffeta. The velvet is a bad influence, constantly dragging the taffeta off the straight and narrow, and the taffeta doesn’t have enough self-esteem to stand up for itself. Anyway. Hand sewing: Yay.

For the second outing, I wore it atop my coral Campi dress and embroidered smock.


I was hoping to work it into a couple more ensembles this weekend (our final weekend of fair is three days long!), but we are in the middle of a monsoon. Sigh. The first really bad weather all season, of course! No mud for this gown. (See the surface I’m standing on? The unpaved, packed earth surface? Yeah. Sometimes I really wish I was in a re-enactment group that occasionally meets indoors.)

So. Although the fitted gown itself is finished, it’s not really finished yet. Not until I make proper sleeves and a more suitable hat (the de Heere hats are awfully charming! I rather like the Italian bonnet on the lass on the left.) and do a full photoshoot will I really consider this project complete!


The UFO Files: Butter Yellow Giornea Monday, Sep 15 2014 

Florentine Overgown | From Elizabeth's Needle

That would be me, doing a little happy dance, because I finished an old, old UFO!

Inspired by the Historical Sew Fortnightly Yellow Challenge, and KCRF buddy Raven’s own yellow Ascension Day ensemble, I dug out a  project I started waaaay back in, oh, 2006 or so. I had abandoned it when I realized I’d made the bodice straps too narrow to cover the straps on its undergown, my brown Botticelli dress. But I have newer Italian garb with narrower straps, so I decided it deserved another chance. It’s worn here with a dress from Sofi’s, because I wasn’t sure if it was worth making the sleeves to go with it, until I’d test-worn it.

The Challenge: #17 Yellow!

Fabric: butter yellow cotton (?) damask from Fashion Fabrics Club, called “Coriander” (It does not behave entirely like cotton; I now suspect a much greater synthetic content than I was lead to believe.). Bodice is flatlined in canvas and lined in cotton broadcloth.

Pattern: My own; draped on myself

Year: late 1400s Florence

Notions: Lacing rings from Renaissance Fabrics and gold soutache to lace with

How historically accurate is it? Um… I’m happy with the silhouette, the color, and the woven-in diamond pattern of the damask, but it’s been through so many crazy incarnations, pattern-wise, and I seem to have arrived at some loony hybrid of a giornea and a cioppa (I’m not even sure what, if anything, the actual difference between those is, but to the best of my understanding: A giornea is one unbroken piece of fabric, open up the sides; a cioppa has a waist seam and usually opens at the front). I will wear it, and cheerfully, but would not like to send it up before judges for anything. There’s also, strangely, quite a bit of invisible hand-sewing and visible machine stitching!

Hours to complete: Unknown

First worn: KCRF, yesterday

Total cost: Again, I bought the fabric in 2006, so I don’t remember, but if I had to guess (based on my fabric buying habits!) I probably bought about 6 yards (I have almost 2 left over, some of which will go toward the sleeves) and wouldn’t have spent more than about $8/yard on it. So ~$50 US.

Florentine Overgown | From Elizabeth's Needle

WIP pix Fall 2014 Wednesday, Sep 10 2014 

I’ve been so busy Making Things all summer that I haven’t had a chance to update the blog. Well, now’s as good a time as any, I guess. Fair has been in full swing for a couple of weeks yet, but as usual my projects are lagging behind.

Raven finished her yellow Italian kirtle, and a host of over-the-top accessories, although she wasn’t wearing her awesome embellished apron that day (check out that HAT!):


Also, it was approximately nine gazillion degrees and two hundred percent humidity that day, so. It’s amazing this isn’t a photo of a puddle.

I have been a busy little seamstress on my English fitted gown. A proper page for the EFG will follow, along with more WIP pictures, but here are some of the darn-near-finished-except-for-sleeves state we have achieved today! It still needs (sleeves) a good pressing and the trim, but this is a pretty good shot of the duck green velvet and bronze taffeta, which play *so* nicely together:


And a closeup of the turned-back “lapels” (they’re not technically lapels; it’s just sort of the front, flapped open):


I have LOVED working with the velvet and taffeta; so much of the construction has been done by hand (and the sleeves are almost entirely done by hand), and these fabrics responded beautifully.


That somewhat odd ensemble worn under the EFG is my other big project of the summer–a resurrected UFO alluded to here: the butter yellow giornea-thing! I abandoned the project six years ago after discovering that the straps were too narrow for the brown undergown it went with… and then my weight changed, and then changed back, and the brown dress has been worn into the ground (alas)… BUT thanks to the Historical Sew Fortnightly Yellow Challenge (and Raven’s own yellow Italian ensemble!), I was inspired to pull it out again. My newer gowns have narrower straps, and it looks well enough with the coral Campi (and the purple Sofi’s gown sported by the dress form… which was, in fact, the original original gown meant to be worn with it), so it is back in the queue!


This morning I cut out the skirt panels for it, discovered I had oriented the fabric the wrong way, thus giving myself too much fabric in the skirt, decided to go with two cross-grain panels, knife pleated to the bodice. I am now trying to decide which direction the pleats should face (all the same way, or meeting in the middle… and if they meet in the middle, do so with a box or inverted pleat?).  …All of which was the whole purpose of the photoshoot, but I got carried away and ended up with a blog post!


This has absolutely nothing to do with historical costuming, but it’s a fun home dec project that delayed the EFG progress for a couple of weeks. Typically, it ended up being FAR more complicated than it should have been, but I’m delighted with the finished results (if not entirely thrilled with the photo!).


A box-pleated COCKATOO valance! For my new laundry room, where I have been happily washing and prepping my wool stash since my birthday.

Here’s a better shot of the fabric, a home dec linen purchased entirely on impulse (there is a cockatoo in my new book) at Hancock’s a couple years ago. It goes with NOTHING, but I love it, so a feature in a small room was the perfect use for it.

cockatoo fabric

It was supposed to be a super-simple gathered valance, but I only had a yard, the parrots were oriented the wrong way to slice the fabric in half and butt the ends to make the length necessary, and the print was wildly off-grain, so I lost a fair bit of the small amount I had to begin with! So I ended up with that crazy design of the lined inverted box pleats, and I just *had* to do the curved hem, because once I decide on something complicated, I go all in. I was lucky enough to find some greyish linen in my stash to line the pleats with.


So THAT, my friends, is what I have been up to this summer, that and revising the aforementioned Cockatoo Book (which, to tell you a secret, is shaping up to be My Favorite Yet. Don’t tell Charlotte and Digger.).




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