Monday, June 27, 2011

Van Dyke Trim & Pinking

I just completed an adventure in massive amounts of trim on a dress for an 1812 event at Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY. (I got to be a tourist vs. an exhibit!)

The inspiration was this 1815 fashion plate of a bathing dress. The pattern was an 1810 dress bodice from Cut of Women's Clothes & the bottom from Patterns of Fashion. It's a wrap dress.

I used 3 different trim techniques to create the dress, 2 with success.

The first, on the upper portion of the dress is Van Dyking, or Dagging. The techniques are the same... I think these are also called Lappets when they are made individually.

I did not make them individually because I'm not insane... though if you had limited fabric this would be the way to go!

First, cut your fabric double-wide & you can either sew on the fold side or on the open side if you want a tube as a finished edge. This is good if the trim will be on the outside of the fabric. That is what I did here. I use Prismacolor pencils to draw on the fabric as it washes out (most of the time). In this case, 1" triangles were sewn by machine on cotton twill.

Next, cut the excess off, to about 1/8" seam allowance, and then clip the inner corners so they turn (not shown). You may want to fray check close clips. If you don't clip the inner edges, the shape won't turn properly (ask me how I know that after I got the first one all turned - duh!).

If it's open, just turn it, if it's in a tube, turn it with a tube-turner or a string on a bodkin (dull needle).
I use the tube turner (you can buy one at JoAnn's or similar store).

Using the end of the tube turner (has a nice dull point), I poked the points of the van dyking out & wiggled things around until it was nice & flat.

Iron flat.
This can be stitched on the outside, gathered a little, laid flat, sandwiched between seams, etc. In this case I used it on the front apron as a flat-felled seam & on the bodice front between the outside & the lining. I lightly gathered it for a nice stand-up row of trim that ended up looking like sunflower petals.

Tip: if your fabric is flimsy you may want to add a lightweight interfacing.

The second technique I tried was binding the edges with single fold bias tape. This did not work out & I ended up cutting it off, but you can see the potential here.

If I had finished it by hand I think I would have loved it, but I just can't stand machine stitched bias tape. Call me a stitch counter, but it just drives me nuts. Yet I don't mind machine top-stitching. Go figure!

The final technique I used was pinking. This ended up being an excellent choice for the finish on this dress.

On a single layer of fabric, draw the template on with colored pencil.
Tip: draw on the backside of the fabric just in case the pencil doesn't come off... so far it has, but there's always an exception...

Fray check the cutting line & let dry.

With pinking shears or a pinking punch (if you can find one, let me know where!), cut the shapes carefully. If you go over the lines, fray check again.
Tip: pinking shears are notoriously painful, I wear a knit winter glove when using them. It saves my hands & lets me use a little more force when necessary.

Here is the "finished" apron with 2 types of edging on it.
You can gather fairly heavily, depending on the type of fabric you use, but let the pinking & van dyking stand out on its own.

- Sew lace on the edge of the van dyking.
- Cut fancier shapes if you have the patience, it will mimic the 18th & 19th c. shapes better
- Find pinking shears that cut in different shapes from the modern "vvv" format.
- Budget for at least 4 bottles of fray check! (open a window).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sumac Dye, Part 1

Today I began an adventure that I've been waiting to start since about mid-winter when the idea popped into my brain. You see... we have an abundance of natural dyestuffs growing all around us & simply don't use it because we either A: don't know about it, B: don't want to take the time/effort/energy to do anything about it... then there's always C: don't wanna.

I wanna, so I am.

After combing the internet & bookshelves for info on this stuff, I found that sumac is a decent dye material. Not perfect in color or fastness, but it has a wide range of colors & it's not like I have a shortage of available materials... that stuff IS a weed around here.

Sooo... I grabbed meself a little axe & hacked down some weed-trees. The barn is a bit easier to get into & I have some raw materials.
Of course, I had help...
For those of you who don't know, this is Clyde; a Cool Cat. He helped me chop trees down, strip leaves & made sure all the leaves went in the right box.

At this stage (June, new buds, fully leafed out), sumac has a main trunk with a couple branches & suckers with leaves. So I've read, it's the right time to harvest leaves & inner bark. Leaves can be harvested any time after they are fully grown, but the inner bark is soft now. Berries can be harvested after they are ripe.

I pulled the suckers off the main branches & stripped them of leaves, leaving the leaf-stems intact. This is fairly easy as the leaf stems are on alternating sides. Holding the branch upside down & doing a "spin & pluck" motion, it took me about 30 minutes to reduce the pile into leaves, trunk/branches & suckers.

Please note: I made a serious miscalculation of leaf-mass to box-volume.
PS... Clyde helped.

Now, very important, when Humans are stripping branches from trees for inexplicable reasons, Kitties must lay on their feet to make sure the Humans don't topple themselves as they are precarious, top-heavy creatures anyway (always tripping over things - like Clyde).

OK, so the pile is now reduced to 3 things: leaves, suckers & branches... and Clyde.
That's still only 3 because Clyde counts as one - always.

The main issue was finding a spot to dry the leaves. It takes up quite a bit of space & I didn't want a place where birds would mess things up. I settled on Punky's house (sad), and spread the leaves out on a canvas tarp to dry. I set the suckers upright in a few buckets to dry in case I find that they can be used as well... no harm in tossing them out later.

I will have to toss the leaves around every day until they are completely dry or risk mold. I should have some drying racks if I were doing this "properly," or I could have bundled the stems & hung them (from what?), but this seemed like a good solution for now.

Leaves will dye several colors, brown, yellow & gray depending on fabric & mordants.

The next step in this adventure, the one I'm really after was skinning the branches for their inner bark. It's the bright green inner bark (Phloem) that we are after and it's fairly easy to get if you have a shady spot & help from Sweetie Pie.

I will admit that the sources weren't clear if I was supposed to take the Cambium too, so I did. It'll either be filler, or useful.

This dyes a bright yellow or a yellow-green.

2 different ways of doing this: stripping the bark with your fingernails, or using a knife. I found that I preferred to use my nails. Stripping from the top down worked best, as did removing the brown outer bark. When I removed it from top-down, it didn't take the green bits with it.

I'm not sure it's necessary to strip the outer bark, but all the info I found said the green inner bark is what is used. As it separated relatively easily, I figured I'd leave the brown bits off.

They are now compost.

NOTE: the Pith or most inner bark at the center of the tree also yields a bright yellow dye. Had I known this, I'd have split the sticks open. Alas.

After 3 trees & a huge pile of sticks this is what I'm left with, 1/3 of which is in the dehydrator right now... the rest will have to be laid out on newspapers for the night.

It took about 4 days of the inner bark being laid out on paper for it to dry. Fortunately we had nice, dry weather for those days. If the humidity had been up it would have taken longer.

The sumac leaves are completely dry. They may have been dry for a while, but I've had my hands full with other things & I figured they weren't going anywhere.

Easiest way to strip the leaves was to get a plastic grocery bag, set it open on the ground and one leaf at a time.
Holding the main vein I pulled it through my fingers & the leaves came off nice as you please. I was limited to one grocery bag because the dry bits are sharp! (also, the bird who built her nest in the building was having a fit that she couldn't get to her babies. Prettiest nest I've ever seen, she used the sumac berries & stalk bits to build it.)

Back inside (100 in the shade today), I crushed the leaves & put them in a gallon bag. 1 grocery sack = 1 gallon in the end.
I put 2 handfuls of leaves in the bowl, crushed with a glass first & then ripped & crushed by hand. The leaves were rather silky & crushed easily. No splinters.
I did not powder the leaves because I figure that whoever is doing the final dying can handle that.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dating an Image

If you get freaked out by disturbing images, skip this post. Go read a pretty dress blog right now.

Well... I gave you fair warning...

OK... not quite what that title sounds like considering the image in question, you DO NOT want this creature anywhere near you.
(Forgive me, please; the allergy meds have given me a most wicked sense of humor).

A few days back, a fellow blogger & FB friend, Matthew Innis, posted this lovely image...
(AAH! My Eyes!)

Which, if you have a very odd sense of humor, or want to permanently scar small children, you can buy...
from here: (Dear Waddington's, please don't yell at me, I'm trying to help sell this delightfully creepy thing at a very affordable price).

Just to be super-helpful, you can "view details" in a lovely little magnifying window on this site. (you may want to turn that feature off to help preserve your sanity).

The oil painting is dated 18th / 19th c... but I know for sure that style of stays wasn't really worn until 1805, but more commonly in the 1810's, by 1820 they were all over the place and were worn well into the 1840's. (I love how the stay string is dipping in the chamber pot).

So... not 18th century - definitely 1st 1/2 of the 19th century.

The lady's bedcap style fits beautifully into the 1810-30 time slot.

That thing (cap) the mutant spider monkey/"gorilla" is wearing... I have no idea. It may well be a 1780's cap drawn up or even a tame 1830's frilly frippery that is being masked by the horrible grinning visage directly beneath it.

The silver spoon could date any time in the 1700's or 1800's, but there is a little deer like figure stamped into the end.

Generic end-of 18th beginning of 19th c. footstool... no help there. It is a bit Neoclassical.

The end table might be of some assistance, but the details could be up to interpretation.

I'm not sure about the bird cage, (please note the mangled, decapitated bird body & the blood spatters next to it - you are most welcome, BTW... Yes, of course you may be excused to run to the bathroom, don't forget the mouthwash).

The bed & chamber pot are too generic, as are the fireplace & grate. Basic 18th c. & early 19th c.

The horse statues could help, but I'm no good at knick knacks... input? One looks a bit oriental & they are probably blackwear ceramics - that knowledge is long gone from my college days as an art history major - I fail this question.

The bottle & glass at the foot of the bed could be helpful, but again, this is not my area.

The most compelling item might be the cooking pot (with a steaming mix of ???). I think it's copper (who can tell from paint?)... It has a riveted handle that looks to be made from a curled sheet of metal. Cook wear is so NOT my thing.

A more definitive date is much desired by the (disturbed) parties in question, so any information is welcome.

Logically speaking, items can exist prior to the painting, but cannot have been first made after it was painted. (discounting the Star Trek theory, of course).

Theories about what it means are also most welcome!

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did & that I helped bring a little ray of dusty sunshine into your world.

Here's your brain bleach...

hrmmm... perhaps not the best image considering that we know what happens after she goes to bed.

Let's try these...

Sweetie Pie is still around, still having kittens & still battling her numerous offspring for the prime real estate of the porch.

And this cute little thing is Lavender. She's Sweetie Pie's Granddaughter and has the most interesting dark points.

She is super-friendly & can't decide between being petted or eating.

Friday, June 3, 2011

2011 Original Northeastern

The 2011 Original Northeastern was a fantastic event this past week. My complements to the staff, you guys did a great job.

I saw many good friends, made some new ones & really had a wonderful time.

I got there on the early set-up day & it was already packed - ended up camped directly in front of the Silver Springs (water tanker), which my tent hid nicely. I believe it was the shortest trip to the Lou I'd ever had. Tents were packed in rope to rope & there was no cutting through anywhere.

An odd phenomenon I've noticed is that when the hooters are screened in people slam the doors & make a general racket, but when they are left uncovered people are polite & close the doors quietly. Perhaps it's psychological & we remember when we are seen coming & going. No one wants to be "that guy" who makes a mess or slams the door at 3:30 a.m. On the flip-side, the porta-johns were fully visible in our 18th & early 19th c. encampment. I guess, all things considered, I'd rather have to see them than hear them - that's why Photoshop was invented.

I tip my hat to the porta-john folks, they were clean, well stocked & had hand sanitizer in every stall (I didn't have to carry a bottle in my pocket) and the truck was quiet! My only lament is that the regular stalls are never wide enough to easily maneuver in big skirts; it's always a careful process avoiding the Dreaded Pee Pan on one side & the toilet paper covers on the other. When paniers/hoops are involved the only solution is the Handicapped Head.

My Princess Bed was absolutely delightful. I still have to finish the uprights & paint the wood, but I was so happy. It kept the bugs out, the wind out & I got to wake up to cute, fuzzy critters & flowers every morning. It also provided a place to toss mending garments or things I needed quickly without having to search through every box & disrupt the whole store... and a place to hang my cloak.

Turtles were a pretty common critter, along with spiders, dragonflys, tiny crickets, butterflys & several kinds of birds. I had one wasp one day, but the nasties were kept to a minimum... dog ticks (yuck) were awful, and whatever bit up my legs I'd like to eradicate because they were on fire for several days, not so bad after 2 hot showers. Poison ivy absolutely everywhere, which I managed to avoid until packing up & helping a neighbor rescue their fly as it blew down.

This little speedster was chased by 3 kids right into my tent. He headed for the back corner & hid under the table for a bit. Then we let him out under a mudflap & off into the woods he went, one boy left trailing while I distracted the girls with pretty dresses. I thought he looked especially nice on my rug. The only reason I got a picture is that I'd been photographing the store.

The rug... I love the rug! I hated rugs & tarps for the longest time. Now I'm a fan. The tarp kept the moisture out (a little) & the bugs away, and the rug kept the tarp down & slip free. Putting a canvas cloth over the tarp never works for me, I always get a heel caught & trip. This was perfect. Now I just need 3 or 4 more. It did leave a slimy mess underneath it, but the mildew smell did not come home with me.

I'm a huge fan of the peg racks & displaying the clothes in a historically appropriate way, but unfortunately they don't display well. People are so accustomed to seeing clothes on hangers that few will take a garment down to look at it or try it on. And I'm forever straightning things - though it beats unpinning from the hanger, or having to bandage my customers after they rip themselves open on a pin.

I'm not 100% sure this is the greatest idea or if it's hurt my sales. Choices are purely fabric based "ooh pretty" vs. garment based, and you can't see what you are looking at right away - this format demands that one be interactive & take one's time, which folks are not used to doing.

One good thing about this system is that those with 1/2 an oz. of patience will allow me to help them & select clothes that will fit & look good on them.

What I have yet to figure out is how to display the sleeveless waistcoats not on a hanger. They don't stay on the pegs & don't look good in a pile. I'm open to suggestions. The table seemed to work better this time around & I can't figure out why. I did keep putting the books back in the box, which may have helped. I would like to set up the shelves in this corner as it will provide additional display space & a place to set piddly little things that are so tempting to set things on.

I've noticed the strange tendency to either sit or set drinks on my box-shelves right on the garments. I think I need a drinks table just outside the door. Apparently the rug is another tempting drink-holder & an excellent place to kick said drink over. More signs, that's the ticket.

Stacking the boxes on top of each other helped with the no sitting thing, but encouraged the drink-setting thing. I'm also open to suggestions there.

We had a motley selection of weather, but mostly it was HOT. Some days so hot no one could even think about moving... so hot that I actually stripped down to stays & petticoat (scandalous)... so hot that I resorted to a wet modesty cloth. Monday we had some damp weather, and on Wednesday we watched Tornado Clouds boiling over our heads & in the second wave of storms they actually opened up & there was a bit of a funnel forming. Thankfully it passed over us, though others in the area were not so fortunate. The sky was gray in the first wave, orange in the second & a beautiful soft yellow in the third - rather discomforting.

Between the bouts of rain, the girls puddle jumped & got quite muddy; everyone cheered them on. When it's like that, you might as well take your joy where you can find it because the Great Bad Thing will either happen or it won't. One thing is sure about the weather, it doesn't care what you say about it.

This lovely young lady was the one who won my gift certificate & we settled on something like this archery dress from 1820. I think she'll look lovely in it & I'll get to see someone running around in an 1820's dress. It will have detachable sleeves & I'll replace the pink with a different color, perhaps white or cream... maybe not so crazy on the hem.

As a closing note, Chuck, Hannah & Kayla; this is the poem I'm ashamed that I couldn't remember seeing as how I knew it by heart in 6th grade & could recite it off of any soda or beer ingredient list for years... and now that I read it again, I think I was a truly macabre child because I loved this thing to pieces.

The Cremation of Sam McGee

by Robert W. Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursed cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ‘taint being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;

Then I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked;” . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.