Friday, October 28, 2011

A Few Odd Things

Some random thoughts have been binging around in my head lately... I've had a lot of time to think, read, etc.

On a personal & business note: I will be unable to hand sew for the next 3 or 4 months... you have no idea how much this pains me. I'm willing to forgo one of my favorite past times & a major part of my business to maintain good health, but I'm not happy about it. It has to do with pressure points & some wacky nerve/muscle things, which I hope will be stable enough in a few months to resume my favorite activity. The restriction is temporary... just annoying.
I am still sewing on the machine & have started looking for a good hand-stitcher to fill in for me. So far, cutting has not been an issue as the scissors don't press against that point.

So if I can't do it, I'll blog about it!
This is the Good Housekeeping diagram for a buttonhole stitch, it was printed in the 1950's, and again in the 70's... so for MY ENTIRE LIFETIME, the buttonhole stitch has been a "C" wrapped under the needle.

Not to say that this is how I make a buttonhole.

Not to say that it's "historically correct" for anything other than the 1950's - 1970's... but it is a buttonhole stitch.

Hope that clears some stuff up....

But then, this is also a buttonhole stitch / blanket stitch from the embroidery section of the same book, which clearly shows a single forward wrap, which is actually how I end up doing most of my buttonholes depending on thread weight, fabric & how well I can control the knots (those doubles are a pain, especially with hand quilting thread).

I'm coming from an embroidery background & old habits die hard. Maybe I'll get good at the double wrap when I can play again.


On another historic note, I've seen some strange rumblings regarding 18th c. modesty cloths, shifts/chemises & other ladies accessories "always" being pure white. Sigh. This is just not the case & since pictures are worth 1,000 words, here you go!

This is "The Recruiting Sargent" by John Colette, 1760's.

Check out the lady bending down to hand the older lady something... and what is this? A striped modesty cloth, you say? The woman next to her has a plaid cap, though I admit it could be a "hood."

And peaking out from under the sad young lady's hat - Behold! A pink cap with white lace! OMG I think I just fainted.

My, my, what do we have here? Yet another Colette! 1763 The High Life Below Stairs (fantastic play if you ever get to see/read it)...

THREE ladies in the same room all wearing colored cloths! Heart attack! Heart attack!

From left to right, the modesty cloths are madder with flowers (could be embroidered, could be printed), Striped (same as above?), and what looks like black with white dots, though it may also be blue as indigo was quite popular then.

I wonder if the lady doing the wash is about to yell at the poor but enthusiastic singers?

On a side note, check out the show/book "Threads of Feeling" from the Foundling Hospital in London. Amazing exhibition which I wish I could see in person, but will have to be satisfied with books & websites.

1780 Man Harassing a Carrot Seller, I think by Rawlandson, but not sure.

You can clearly see that her stockings & skin are white, but her modesty cloth is not.

Please note that her apron is also colored, thankfully no one has been silly enough to make a statement about apron colors.

1730, Phillips, Tea Party, Detail

While I'm not 100% sure that the yellow thing around the lady's neck is actually a modesty cloth, it functions as the same thing & sure isn't white. From the small image, I think it looks like a line of rushing for a fichu... though again, I'm just not sure.

These women are slightly higher class than the folks above, so it's not just poor people wearing colors... though they do lean towards them more than the upper-crust ladies.

1738 Yikes! Stripes! Chardin's Kitchen Maid has a blue & white striped modesty cloth. It's lovely & I want it. I also want her lined pet-en l'aire / "sack back bedgown" (yes, I made that up, but it's better than arguing about who wore what when it's clearly a sack format in shortened form on a working class French gal).

Also: note the spiffy chopping block, cleaver, interesting pots & pans and cool ladder-back chair!

Last, but not least...
1745 The Chocolate Pot by Liotard
This just happens to be one of my favorite paintings for obvious reasons.

Check out the pink cap (and yeah, I know how screwed up the color on this image can get... doesn't change the fact that her cap is colored).

Also note that her hoop is a small, round hoop vs. a large bell or oval. The look could also be accomplished by multiple petticoats & a bum roll, but I really think it's a hoop.

That isn't all that's been flitting around in my brain, but it'll do for now. A bit of provocation, a bit of history & some really pretty pictures to go along with the first 2!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Decaf does not agree with me.

That was the sound of a costume zombie rising from the muddy grave.

I'm finally back in the sewing room & delighting in the company of my machine, iron, needles & thread. Of course, just now I'm at the computer on my lunch break pondering the multifaceted world of Historic Sewing... and all the good & bad that comes with that.

Like: how mean should someone be when "kindly" explaining to someone else that ALL buttonholes were ALWAYS sewn using the TRUE buttonhole stitch (wrap thread twice) vs the blanket stitch (wrap thread once)? With a "so-called expert" thrown in to twist the knife.
And then how should one respond when one was sewing on heavy wool with heavy thread & a "true" buttonhole stitch was impractically bulky? Hrm... ponder, ponder... yet I admit that the ancient post was indeed misleading and I have since learned that a "true" buttonhole stitch is basically a French Knot, pearl stitch, or countless other "wrap it twice" techniques. For the 18th c... Sigh.
I hate forum flotsam.

And: Is it NOT OK to learn? Is one not allowed to make mistakes? Really? I mean, we all start somewhere, right? So if you are starting out on a path of research or growth in your hobby/field of study, are you not permitted to say some stupid things on occasion?
Why should someone be condemned for saying something today in contradiction to something they said 2 years ago? Do findings not change?
Are we not permitted to change our minds?

I just get so tired of the Mavens squishing the newbees (or the not-so-newbees), especially with "always" and "never" statements. Please prove it. PLEASE direct me to your primary sources. I would love to read them! I really do mean that.

Anyway... please, if you are a long-time living historian, of whatever flavor... be kind to the new kids on the block. Gently guide them, hand them books vs. dragging them around by the back of the neck or hurling expletives at their heads.

Then: there's the issue of sewing vendors/sellers using copyrighted patterns for the bulk of their inventory when they know it's wrong.
Let us just say that most pattern makers are really great people & deserve your respect both financially & intellectually. Just because "no one can tell" once the final piece is made, doesn't make it right. ASK them. Chances are they will give you permission to use their patterns.

Failing that, learn to draft patterns like I do... or learn to drape! (I'm quickly discovering the wonderful world of draping). Work from originals with permission & if you "can do it that way" please DO.
"Don't steal" is one of those things that is a basic moral. Obtain it, observe it & abide by it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First Yarns

Sit back & let me spin a yarn...
I figure so many of you are really sick of reading about icky wool on my pretty clothing blog.
Too bad, I've got another one.

I'll keep it short & sweet with lots of terrible pictures.

Essentially when I was at the Eastern Primitive Rendezvous (ie, Bog of Eternal Stench) - whole other post there! I picked up a drop spindle from Carol Leigh. Oops. BIG mistake (as she giggles with maniacal glee). I also bought a "how to spin wool" book, which I neglected to read past the "these are the other fibers you can spin zzzzzzzz...." section. I did eventually read it, but well after watching countless YouTube videos on how to use a drop spindle & screwing up a few ounces of Dorset (big loss, see Gail's heart break)...

So here's what I "spun" and I'm not unhappy with it. Once I learn to card & draft better I think my threads will turn out much nicer; but it's fun & an excellent evening t-v activity which doesn't use the same hand movements as sewing! Yay!

This is the very first bit of yarn I've ever spun. Icky, huh? It's actually really soft, but some of it is un-spun, other bits over-spun, totally chunky to super-thin... a general first-time disaster! Love it.
Oh, and it still has burrs in it - not something you want to give to someone you actually like as an undergarment...

First bit of yarn (finished): natural 2 ply Dorset that I scoured the heck out of & somehow managed not to felt before spinning. It has already been through a mordant, so whenever I want to dye it I can just wet it, submerge it & go.

I may send this to my friend Cori... there's enough to knit a funky potholder, maybe. haha. (and I do actually like Cori, but she's got a wicked sense of humor about these sorts of things).

Here are the 2 yarns drying & getting stretched in the laundry room. NOT the best days for drying anything. I was shocked, Shocked I Tell You, when I found out that you finish yarn by essentially felting it & then beating the heck out of it. Basically, you spin your yarn, ply it (or not), then let it rest for a few days, then you run it under HOT water with soap (Dawn is fine - again), then cold water & then you Slap It Against A Wall and hang it out to dry. Now, I've heard some crazy lady say it's like "giving it a nice day at the spa after it's been through so much." HA! More like adding insult to injury. But it really does come out nice.

Here is the finished yarn from the sumac dyed wool that I though I'd felted & wrecked. I was wrong, it's fine. So the deal is that the first batch of green inner bark sumac dye absorbed any & all resin from the dyebath & got quite nacky. After it was totally dry & carded it's not that bad. Still a bit crinkly, but spinnable & it washed out soft. No big deal. My yarns are still super-chunky & not that even, but the single ply is holding together, relatively even & Mom says she can actually use it for something. Amazing.

I think, but I'm not sure, that the chunky comes from the long staple fiber (5"-7") and me not pre-drafting it out thin enough. May also have to do with not having my hands far enough apart (short draft vs. long draft).

Oh, funny here:
Because Yours Truly didn't bother to read any actual books before totally messing up the first couple times, Yours Truly has learned to, quite naturally, spin widdershins. Somehow it fits me perfectly.
I just hope Mom doesn't kill me when she tries to knit with this stuff.