Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Mushroom Hat , and a couple of other items

      Back again - it's been a busy couple of months full of distractions. Before it appears that I never really finish anything, I'm happy to post a picture of a completed object from a previous post - the  black handkerchief linen 18th century neckstock.

               Here you can see the tabs added since my previous post, and if you have really good eyes, you can see the buttonholes. No, they are not handmade. I decided just to get the darn thing finished. I also ended up folding a couple of layers of the excess linen into the the inside of the neckstock as interfacing rather than using a layer of canvas. I didn't want it to be too thick or too hot to be comfortable in the crazy heat we usually find ourselves in at summer events. In any case, the DPO has a new neckstock and will no longer have to feel the shame of inferior neckwear.

              Next up is the hat which I completed for the Spring Encampment last weekend at Locust Grove. I have had the straw hat and the ribbon  for about two years, so this was definitely unfinished business. It was intended to go with a brown raw silk dress I was also going to make for the cooler weather events, because I am occasionally allergic to wool, and I find silk to be very warm and light. The raw silk is not strictly period correct, but it doesn't have many slubs and could pass as homespun quite easily.  I had gotten the dress mostly together before I started this blog. It was just waiting for a little bit of finishing which I also did last week.

                The hat was originally going to be covered with a cream and brown striped fabric, but then I realized I would be very limited as to what I had to wear it with. I decided on the chocolate color when I found another piece of fabric in my stash that had this brown and the green, yellow and brown you will see in the ribbon trim. That fabric was intended for an 18th century gown, and having this hat might just give me the nudge I need to do that one, too!

               I got it in my head that this hat should resemble a mushroom. I don't know why. But there it was, and so this is what I did...

Chocolate brown linen stretched over a straw hat as a base. You can see the stitching around the crown that holds it on and tightens it as you make subsequent passes with the needle and thread.
A gathering stitch was done around the outside of the large circle of linen to help pull it taut to the inside.

A strip of sage green linen gathered at both edges and shaped to fit the underside of the brim. The outer edge was then blind stitched to the brown linen on the top. I actually had to redo this when I realized I didn't want the brown to show from underneath. I had to roll the green edge up more toward the top of the hat.

Large hand stitches attach the lining at the base of the crown to the straw through the crown itself. Any stitching that shows on the outside will be covered by the ribbon.

Pleating the luscious silk ribbon to the edge of the hat,

The pleated edge in closeup. Shiny!

I was going to do the standard bow at the back, but couldn't make it work, so I came up with the idea of a rosette. The ribbon edges are gathered by hand, and stitched  largest to smallest onto a piece of crinoline.

Like this.

The finished hat. I stitched a copper filagree metal button into the center of the rosette, I also pleated ribbon around the crown, which looks pretty and hides the previous stitching.

The underside of the hat. A narrow piece of silk ribbon hides the gathering stitches on the green linen, and then a piece of buttercup yellow ribbon is attached for a tie.

The finished dress and hat. It's very plain, but that was what I was after. I used the J.P.Ryan Robe l'Anglais pattern for the dress. It is a round gown, all of a piece instead of having an open front with a separate petticoat. I actually have a second petticoat under this, but the fabric hangs rather heavily, so I don't look very puffy. The front  of the bodice is held together with hooks and eyes and is boned to  keep it nice and flat. I need to redo my stays, but I am not sure I am up for that.

The back of the gown showing the pleating (which drove me nuts on this dress) and the sleeve ruffle.

    By the way, raw silk is a bear to work on. It ravels, it tears up your fingers and your needles, and it doesn't crease well. But it has lovely drape and it IS nicely warm.

     Oh, and I made another 18th c. shirt - this one a commission for a friend, who was also going to the event. So that makes 4, count 'em, 4 projects to check off!!

    Still working on those darn trade shirts-   note to self - never do two shirts with hand
 rolled ruffles at the same time...

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trade Shirt Redux, and a couple of other things

A few of the pieces of the trade shirts. That's a lot of hemming! Underneath is the beginning of a translation of the Chen Tai chi Sword form posture list that is now "finished business".

     I know, I know. I haven't posted recently, but I have several good excuses. First of all, it is NOT a good idea to start two items requiring a great deal of hand rolled hemmage at the same time.  Because the shirts have not only rolled edges on the front openings and sleeve slits, but ruffles at both wrist and neck as well, it went on interminably! I use the method I learned from Kathleen Kannik's fine instructions that came with the shirt pattern  ( I was also fortunate enough to do a workshop with her on same at the Jane Austen festival in Louisville , KY, a few years ago). It works beautifully and goes fairly quickly (depending on how long and/ or how many edges you are dealing with).  At any rate, it has taken me a long time to get them completed, and I wanted to do that before I got to the main body sewing

      Part of the problem is that another couple of things came up. I have been learning the Chen Style 56 posture Taiji Sword form, and couldn't find a list of the postures in the form I am learning. I have been working with my wonderful Chinese Taiji  teacher, Grand Master Ding Mingye, on a translation of the Chinese names. You can see a little bit of it under the first photo. I finally finished that yesterday. :) I have a new respect for translators.

      I have also volunteered to be on the Prom committee for my friend R's 40th birthday party Prom. I am in charge of the table decor, and so have been making favors and gathering materials for that. The shopping trip with the rest of the prom committee was a blast since it involved balloons, shiny stuff and Chinese food. Fun!

      There were also some alterations to do to my "Prom gown", which came from a local secondhand store and makes me feel like Cloris Leachman on Dancing With the Stars! Hahaha! Pictures to follow,so as not to pre-empt any prom party surprises.

     There were also taxes, and other forms of paperwork; showers to shop for; some reading to get to: etc., etc., etc.. Yadda yadda yadda.

      Some really lousy photos of the rolled hemming process follow. Where is my son, the photographer, when I need him?!

Thanks for reading,


Showing the basic technique: you turn the edge over slightly and pick up one thread near the raw edge.

Then you pick up the folded edge; ideally just a thread or two. I don't see as well as I used to, so got a little too big a chunk here.  Anyway, then you just pull the thread, and the edge rolls over.

Here is what the corner looks like.

Kathleen recommends a device called a sewing bird to hold the piece taut. I don't have one, so I use the couch and a large pin to hold the work as it lengthens.

Here is a sewing bird. It clamps onto a table, the bird holds the fabric in it's mouth and allows it to be held taut, even if it is long.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

And now, for something completely different: Iggy Pop, Maria Von Trapp, and Dana Scully

“I'm not ashamed to dress "like a woman" because I don't think it's shameful to be a woman.”
Iggy Pop

No projects today; just a bit of observation, and a little bit of a rant on what I guess is what passes for the other f-word these days. And not as well put as I would hope, but....

I was reading a post by the lovely Brigid Kaelin over at The Red Accordian Diaries .
She talks about how she would like to be in a musical and mentions The Sound of Music, which got me to thinking about Maria von Trapp, who had the strength and courage to change her mind about her path in life, to take on a widower with a bunch of kids, and the Nazi army.

I'm afraid if they ever did a remake of The Sound of Music, we might see Maria coming away from the stage at the end with a machine gun blazing, mowing all the Nazis down and screaming obscenities while the Captain and the kids head for the hills.Nowadays it seems that movies and TV shows with what Netflix would call "A Strong Female Lead" seem to confuse strong women and feminist progress with badly behaved sex-obsessed, substance- abusing, weapon-toting, foul-mouthed, rude, testosterone -ridden teenaged boys.  In rubber corsets. Or really bad blazers and heels. This is progress?

In other words, to echo Iggy, what's so shameful about being a woman?

Where are the regular strong women? The Norma Raes or the Karen Silkwoods or the Irene Dunne in I Remember Mamas, or the Maria von Trapps, or any number of other characters real and imagined that were incredibly strong yet didn't act like guys?  No weapons, no vinyl, no cussing, no meanness, no farting. The problem, as I see it, is not that these new strong women fight or cuss or whatever, but that acting in what is a traditionally male (and not the most admirable male) fashion is being elevated to what is the best and the ideal; what women should aspire to if they want to be seen as worthy of respect.

And it's unnecessary. Look at the character, Dana Scully.  SHE carried a gun, SHE wore bad blazers and heels, and yet she didn't swagger around, talk like a  street tough,  and shove Mulder out of the way to get to the bad guys (or whatever) to beat the heck out of them first. Nor did she wear cleavage baring shirts to work (ha, ah) or act like "one of the boys". Somehow, she still came across as female AND someone not to be messed with.  Like my paternal grandmother -also not someone to be messed with - and SHE wasn't even armed; just respected.

These ultra macho women don't honor us  - they caricature us. They take us to an opposite yet equally ridiculous end of the spectrum from the June Cleavers and those women in the horror movies who always tripped at the worst moment; those utterly helpless female images that feminism was supposed to eradicate. The replacement is not much better, in my opinion, in that is unrealistic and unattainable in so many way(e.g.,  body issues; 'nuff said). Why not equally represent and honor strength of purpose and conviction, dedication to nurturing others, gentility, softness, generosity of spirit, cleverness, intelligence? They're good, too!

And have you ever noticed that the women in many British TV shows and movies actually look like real people and come in a wider variety of shapes, ages and sizes?

And three more things while I'm at it. Why are female nipples obscene, but not male nipples?  I really want to post pictures on Facebook of both in closeup and see what they do. How would they be able to tell which is which? How would they know which to take down?

Why are the traditional female roles and occupations disparaged? Why don't kids' books tell girls  it's good to be a teacher or a nurse or a stay -at home mom? Sure, when I was a kid, those were pretty much the only choices listed, but they're still good. Why does everyone act like Home Ec is unimportant compared to math and computers and sports? Doesn't everyone need to know how to cook and sew on a button and take care of themselves?

How come you can name your daughter Ryan or Kevin, but no one would name their son Betty or Margaret?

What's so shameful about being a woman?

If you're still reading, thanks for listening -had to get that off of my chest.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pea Pod "Puffy" Blanket and a Very Nice Yarn

This is what I was working on when I started the afore-mentioned shirts. I find it best to switch off projects because one maybe makes my shoulder suffer; another one gets to my fingers; one takes a lot of paying attention; another one is pretty mindless; one turns out to be tedious as all get out; one turns out to be more fun than it looked.

With all the babies in our lives these days, I have been looking through the baby knitting books at JoAnn Fabrics, and came across this pattern.

I really liked the idea of the pods that add some loft to the blanket, making it useful as a soft pad for a lie-down or a diaper change, especially on a hard surface. And they looked like fun to make! And the seed stitch on the border is a favorite of mine. It's kind of slow because you switch from knit to purl constantly, but it makes such a nice fabric from both sides of the piece.

The yarns used in the book were all  chunky wools or combos of wool and something. Wool has two issues for me: one, I think it can be hard on baby skin; two, I'm mildly allergic to wool, and it can really make me crazy if it is running over my fingers for an extended period of time.

The author also suggested cotton as an option, and that it makes a nice option for a beach towel as well.  Works for me! Chunky cottons are not easy to find - I knew I would likely have to double it - and JoAnn didn't have much in the way of pleasant cotton yarns. I use Sugar and Cream for washcloths, but I wanted something softer.

Google to the rescue! I typed in chunky cotton yarns and found and this lovely yarn on sale.  It's Knit Picks Simply Cotton Worsted in green tea heather. It's very soft, and very slightly fuzzy and feels really good.

On size 13 needles it went really quickly (especially since the last major knitting I had done was on 0's and 2's on fingering yarns). Here is a picture for comparison:

and here is the pattern I had used. It's from a 1959 Vogue Knitting Book for Spring/Summer. I wanted to make a sweater on small needles because my mother had done it several times and I wanted the experience of it; I made this simple 3/4 length sleeved cardigan for my daughter because she is smaller than I am and I thought it would go faster - not so much. A true UFO, I finished it a couple of months ago after 2 1/2 years. And forgot to knit the buttonholes in and had to do a grosgrain ribbon finish. Let me tell you, modern grosgrain is the pits. Sorry, no finished photos - I handed it over as soon as I finished it.

Nature Spun Nordic Blue wool fingering yarn; bamboo needles in 0 and 2 sizes. For some reason fingering weight wool doesn't cause me as many allergy problems.

Scribbles by me at age 4 or 5 :)
Some notes: I think that the puffiness of the pods would have been more pronounced with a bouncy wool or wool blend yarn. I also should have remembered that my knitting is very loose and generally it works best if I go a needle size smaller. My gauge was correct when I did a swatch, but the blanket is about 3 inches larger all around than the size in the pattern. That could also be a function of the difference in spring of the wool and the cotton, though.

Now back to the fun but tedious trade shirts from the previous post. And if  you are a knitter without a local yarn shopping option, check out They have a great selection, and some good sales.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, February 14, 2013

18th Century Trade Fabric madness!

 So...... a little over a year ago, I had a request from the Dear Patient One for an 18th century Native American trade shirt.  This is a shirt in the style of those worn by the men of European descent (otherwise known in our house as a "Happy Shirt") but made for trade with the natives. From what I have read, initially they were mostly white, but some were made from "India" cloth that was block printed in a technique that has changed very little over the last 3 hundred years, and that colored cloth became very popular for trade. They traded the cloth itself with the Native Americans, but also the garments. I have made many 18th century shirts, mostly from white cotton or linen.

An assortment of well-loved shirts. The two plain ones are linen, the checked one is cotton. The two linen are completely hand sewn - the cotton one has machine sewn side and sleeve seams seams, but the rest is hand sewn.
The DPO's Illinois Regiment of Virginia military shirt. He's not an officer, so no ruffles here.

We do 18th century re-enacting, but we don't do native portrayals, and I don't pretend to be an expert. However, a little over a year ago (sheesh, maybe two?) I was asked by a friend who works at a local historic home to make just such a shirt for their hands -on museum display. He had purchased the appropriate fabric on behalf of the site, and gave me some pointers on the necessary changes to make to the basic European design. For instance, there would be ruffles on the front and on the sleeves a la the English officers, but no buttons anywhere. Also, the shirt would not be the knee length preferred by the Europeans and European/Americans, but a shorter thigh length, which I imagine would be more practical for roaming the Eastern Woodlands.

Not great resolution, but you can see the ruffles on the sleeves.

Here again, the white shirt is easily seen.
A modern painting of Native Americans in their European style clothes.

The DPO  helped me by trying it on a few times, and I was not surprised when he announced that he would also like to have one for himself. He wears his "Happy Shirts" quite frequently at home, although some of them are now in a very delicate condition, and have to be treated gently so that they will be there for living History purposes. By the way, in the hobby, we call that delicate condition, "patina".

Happy shirt AND a turkey leg! Too much happy!

I called up our friends at Regency Revisited, the lovely Walt and Jan Dubbeld, and Jan sent me some sample fabric pics on Facebook. The DPO, chose what he liked (we got two) and I told him I promised I would get them done ASAP. Then,later that same year,  I said I would have them for Christmas, and so here I am in February, cutting them out. Because they are for him, they will be mostly done by hand, maybe with only the long seams done on the machine. This means finding a good series to watch in Netflix while I hand sew.

The top two fabrics will become the trade shirts, using the best of shirt patterns available. Kannick's Korner patterns are well documented , have great pictures and instructions and the pieces always fit together well. The fabric on the lower right is leftover from the shirt I made for Historic Locust Grove and also came from Regency Revisited. It is in the process of becoming an apron, hence the twill tape. The shirt on the left belonged to my first Tai Chi teacher, and I asked him to give it to me when he was tired of it because the print and the colors were so perfect. It's beautifully soft and worn and will make a lovely period something or other once I cut it up.

Off to the cutting table now, before I have to clear it for a Valentine's Day dinner with my sweetie!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, February 8, 2013

Brody's Quilt, Cabaret , and Camelot

     Finis! Never underestimate the power of a deadline or the announcement of a birth. Congratulations to my nephew and his lovely wife on the birth of their first child, Brody. The little guy came a little early, thus putting the vise grips on his old Auntie Lynn and kicking me (haha, unintentional football joke) into gear to complete his blanket!

As you can see, it's am little different than the original plan I had graphed out. I was concerned that the other version might have an adverse effect on his vision because it was BUSY, BUSY!

Believe it or not, this is a lot less so. Besides, since they say that infants see black and white and red best to begin with,  the stimulation will do him good, while making his dad happy because one of his favorite teams  (The University of Louisville)is so well represented.

That black binding gave me pause, because part of me was really having a hard time putting black on a baby's quilt, but it really did look the best.

The backing presented something of a problem. I got some official fabric for Brennen's other fave team,  the Philadelphia Eagles, whose colors are green and black and silver and white or some combination thereof. I had to look it up, even after I got the fabric, and it still wasn't clear. Apparently, they have changed it around some over the years. In any case, red and green can present a problem - a problem called Christmas. And it DID look like Christmas had exploded all over the thing when I put the Eagles fabric up next to the U of L fabric. I really didn't like having the two prints abutted, even at the edges. Also, the length I had ordered ended up being just a little short for the length of the quilt top and I would have ended up piecing it and running the Eagles print oriented the long way on the back of the quilt , and I didn't like how it looked. What to do, what to do...?

      I reached down deep to find my inner child-of-a-football-coach. (Thanks, Dad). So , a "field " of Eagles surrounded by white softened the overall busy-ness. The background color of the print is much greener than it looks here.The ten yard lines are done with 1/8th inch ribbon; the goal posts are made from bias binding which I hand applied. The football is a large machine applique with ribbon and bias detail. I initially wanted to do smaller footballs in the corners, but my son, Owen, suggested the large central motif. He was right, of course. I think it's fun - and I hope they will like it. Part of me wanted to go crazy detail-wise, but instead opted for a child-like simplicity appropriate to the occasion.

      Why mention Cabaret and Camelot? One of my favorite things about handwork is that it goes so well with TV watching, and/or pondering the universe. I saw parts of both of these movies while I was tying the quilt and working on the appliques.

      When I was in high school, Cabaret came out and I loved it - it was exotic and sensual and artsy and intellectual and sexy and Sally Bowles was a professional singer with green fingernails, for heaven' sake! "Divine Decadence". Oh, yeah, very impressive at age 17 in 1972.

      Camelot had been out for awhile. I thought it was stupid. Overly romantic and sappy and not very hip, to my way of thinking. I liked  Richard Harris a lot, and many of the songs, but it had nowhere near the edginess of Cabaret.

       Life as unfinished business: as I watched these two films, it became apparent that they have similar themes - a perfect world destroyed; one by love, one by hate. But now, I understand King Arthur's suffering and his dilemma of loving and letting go; pride and betrayal; duty and love. I still don't like the movie that much, but I understand it better now.

       As for Sally Bowles, dear Lord, whatever did I see in her? She's a mess - just ridiculous! Hedonistic and naive, selfish and shallow. I couldn't even watch it, actually.

      Always in a state of working on things, right? Maybe the day will come when I watch Cabaret again, and feel the way I did in high school.  My kids will love that. In the meantime, I will keep working my way through these "meditations" of mine, one at a time.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Forging Ahead - An 18th Century Military Neckstock

         Upon realizing that I would ruin the surprise if I posted pictures of my nephew's red and black baby quilt, I decided to go with a different bit of unfinished business; a new neckstock for my darling, patient husband.

          To paraphrase Ralphie in A Christmas Story;  Neckstock? What's a neckstock? It's the forerunner to that wonderful fashion accessory, the necktie. All the rage in the 18th and 19th centuries!

          We began doing 18th century re-enacting about 7 years ago, and I have made most of our clothes since then. However, Bob's neckstock is a pitiful little off -the-rack strip of black cotton and two back ties that we are constantly losing. It also scrunches down into a thin little strip when he wears it, and doesn't look that good. Besides, his friend E has a really nice one with the period correct military buckle to hook it together in the back (to make it even more uncomfortable) and he likes to have whatever E has. I decided he had worn that little sad one long enough!

             I got a piece of black handkerchief linen, ordered the appropriate buckle from Smiling Fox Forge and decided to wing it. Based on some extant garments I have seen, as well as many photographs of same, I believe that there was a lot of winging it that went on with sewing in the past when there were no patterns and no written directions, and maybe you couldn't read them if there were. So I grabbed my fabric and started pleating. I wanted stacked pleats - very crisp. No.1 is a bad picture of a bad idea. I thought I would try it without any stitches to hold the pleats. I worked on it and worked on it - pleated, repleated, pinned, repinned -then I put it on the desk and ran away.

              Finally, after walking past it numerous times, it became clear that it must be done a different way in order to actually accomplish the look I wanted . So, in need of a project to sit in front of the TV with, and to allay any guilt at Bob's not having a proper neckstock, I took it apart and started over. This time, I took my time, marked everything, folded and pressed, and ran a running stitch along the lines to make the pleats, sizing the pleats to hide the stitching once they were pressed down into place. See picture 5, below.

              This has turned out to be a good idea, and now all that needs to happen is for me to make the tabs with the handsewn buttonholes for the buckle posts, interface the fabric and stitch the back closed. Then Bob will literally be able to hold his head high among the other re-enactors wandering the grounds of public parks and historic homes.

Thanks for checking in with me!