Monday, June 13, 2016

Embellishing 17th-Century Dress at Plimoth Plantation (and THE JACKET!)

One random afternoon, while wandering around Plimoth Plantation's web site, I noticed something I hadn't before: an advertisement for a 17th Century Dress Embellishment conference weekend. I think there was maybe about a 90 second gap before me finding that and me enrolling, and that's only because I had to pull my card out of my wallet! Ha ha ha! Then came several weeks of waiting, but this past Saturday, at last, the day had arrived. . .

Entering Plimoth Plantation

The main focus of the weekend was on 17th century embroidery, and we would be making a small wall hanging using the same techniques used to make The Plimoth Jacket. There were several designs to choose from, but of course, I had to go with the most technically difficult, because it was part of the design used for the jacket! I was lucky enough to already have one of the Plimoth Jacket thread kits in my stash, so I brought that along, and used several colors of that for my wall hanging (along with a coral color that was no in the kit, but is similar to the coral color used in The Jacket).

Supplies for the 17c wall hanging based on The Plimoth Jacket

Much of my embroidery time Saturday was spent trying different techniques for making the detached buttonhole stitch, and learning through trial and error the perfect distance to put between stitches to create something I liked the look of. I did a lot of ripping out stitches, as one always does when learning something new!

We managed to take some of lunch break to pop down to the village!

Welcome to the 17th Century

Plimoth Plantation

I love getting to wander into the houses and see how life was in the 1620s. . . I also loved the chickens who wander freely, even into the houses!

Interior of a house at Plimoth Plantation

House with roof being repaired at Plimoth Plantation

Raised bed garden at Plimoth Plantation

Back inside, we saw more demos of 17th century stitches. . .

Embroidery demo at Plimoth Plantation 17th century embellishment conference

And we got to see the blacksmith demonstrate how he made the spangles for The Plimoth Jacket!

Spangle making demonstration at Plimoth Plantation 17th century embellishment conference

At the end of Saturday, Plimoth Plantation had organized a wonderful cocktail hour for the attendees, at which they were going to present to us THE JACKET!!! Carrie and I wore tiaras because it was Carrie's birthday! (This picture came out blurry because I had a shaky hand. . . Excitement over The Jacket? Probably!)


They had made a special cocktail for us, called the Pin Cushion! I wish I could remember exactly what was in it. . . I know there was grapefruit something. . . But at any rate, it was delicious - and pink!

The Pin Cushion cocktail at Plimoth Plantation

And then, The Jacket was about to appear! Here is a picture of me as it was coming out:

Girls screaming for the Beatles

Ha ha ha, okay, that's actually girls screaming for The Beatles. . . But it's what I looked like on the inside! And then. . . THE JACKET!!!

The Plimoth Jacket

The Plimoth Jacket

I thought they did such a lovely job of making this a real event! The lighting, the music in the background, and a really lovely speech that preceded it. And of course, getting to see it! In person! And on a person!

The Plimoth Jacket

After the excitement, we found we had worked up an appetite, so Carrie and I headed down to the Plymouth waterfront in search of food. Of course, we had to first take a walk down to see the newly-arrived Mayflower!

The Mayflower

And then we had some delicious, giant, stuffed pretzels at Driftwood! I got the veggie pretzel, and it was delicious, but so filling that this is what I took home as leftovers!

Giant stuffed pretzel at Driftwood in Plymouth

After getting some sleep, it was back to Plimoth Plantation again Sunday morning, to see a lace-making demonstration!

Bobbin lace making demonstration

After lace-making, there was more embroidery time, and finally, we got to tour the wardrobe department! This involved getting to study The Jacket in daylight, up close and personal! I don't actually know with 100% certainty what I can post for pictures, so until I check on that, here is a picture of the mock-up that was made for the jacket. It used the pattern that was used for the actual jacket, and the same construction techniques, but of course, no embroidery! However, the pattern for the embroidery was all drawn in, so that they could be sure it would work out nicely on the real deal. . .

Mock up for the Plimoth Jacket

I had so much fun getting to talk to the people who make and maintain the wardrobe at Plimoth Plantation! We got to see a variety of pieces used throughout the years by the "pilgrims," and ask all kinds of questions. I didn't take any fabulous pictures, being too much absorbed in listening and in poking around, but here are some plants from which dyes would have been obtained in the 17th century. . .

Plants used for 17th century dyes

By the end of the weekend, I had a start on my wall hanging, (not as much progress as others, but then, I spent a good amount of time messing around with different stitches and techniques and subsequently ripping and re-stitching things, and I also left a little bit early because I was fairly worn out and wanting to beat the Cape Cod traffic), and also, two thread buttons. I realized I did not take any pictures at the button making demonstration! Rest assured it was another super fun part of the weekend, and I learned to make two different styles of buttons that you see here. (The blue woven button is not quite finished yet, but the one with both blue and red is ready to be popped onto a project of some sort!)

Embroidery and thread buttons

And of course, in between all the crafting and related adventures, I had to make multiple stops into the craft and gift shops!

Loot from the Plimoth Plantation gift shops

I have a little collection going of these Oliver Pluff teas from historic sites, so I was happy to add Plimoth Plantation to that. I got the Bohea tea, and had it for breakfast this morning. Delicious! I also have a serious crewel addiction right now (more on that in my next post, I think), so I could not resist this very pretty tree of life kit. And finally, I was so excited to see this relatively newly published Plimoth Plantation knitting book!!! I have the previous book from the 1970s which is mostly words with a few low quality black and white pictures. This one is many more pages, typed up very clearly, and includes color pictures of the projects, as well as a few charming pictures of the village sprinkled throughout, which I thought was a nice touch. Also, spiral-bound! YES! All craft books should be spiral-bound like this, because then they behave nicely, and lay flat on your workspace while you knit/sew/whatever!

I knew I was going to come away with new embroidery tricks, and exposure to other 17c embellishments, and I knew I was going to be swooning over THE Jacket, but this weekend also allowed for a blossoming friendship and meeting new possible future friends, and it inspired me to dive deeper into the intricate details of 17th century fashion! I definitely have added some new projects to my endless sewing/crafting to-do list. I still have school sucking up much of my time, but I'm determined to make sure I squeeze in little pockets of time here and there for both research and actually making things! I would declare the weekend a fabulous success, a wonderful time, and something I hope to do more of in the future!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Where Have I Been?!?

Lately, I've been feeling a bit blue about how much my life has (temporarily) changed over the past few years. I used to do at least a few big costuming projects every year, plus lots of miscellaneous costume and crafty shenanigans in between! But a few years ago, I decided that I needed to go back to school. I've probably alluded to it here and there in various posts I've written, but I don't think I've ever written directly about it, so I thought, why not write a little post, even though it's rather off-topic from the sorts of things I usually blather on about in this blog!

How the school thing came about is that I spent almost a year unemployed and barely able to get even so much as an interview, because even though I have a ton of experience working in the health care industry, and several of that specifically as a business analyst, it seemed I was not even being considered for most positions. I think it has just reached a point where you have to have some sort of a degree, or a great network of buddies who can get you a job, or you won't be taken seriously. I got lucky and a friend of a friend was able to help me land a position as a contractor. That solved my unemployment issue at the time, but a contractor is a temporary position, and I knew I'd be back in the same boat again eventually!

I started mulling over what I should pursue. In my perfect dream world, I'd work in a living history setting, making and keeping up a historic wardrobe for the living history interpreters, and having my love of studying and recreating historic clothing and accessories mean something. The reality is that there are so few jobs like this out there, and I have the added challenge of not being able to relocate for school or a job. My husband is very close with his family, has a great job that he's comfortable in, and we own and love our home. Relocation just isn't an option, and that means that it would be very foolish of me to chase after my dream position, since there's only one place I could work, and they almost never have openings. The final nail in the coffin on this dream is that I could only find one place to go to school for anything even remotely close to what I'd want to study, and it would leave me $200,000 in debt. It would be idiotic of me to put myself that far in debt for a job I'll probably never have, and even if I do, will never pay a salary that would allow me to pay back that debt in this life time!

I tried to turn my focus towards finding something that would be a more practical choice. I made a list of everything I enjoy doing, and tried to figure out how I could make a career out of it. The problem is, almost everything I love involves making things or teaching others how to make them, and I'd just never be able to pay a mortgage that way! The one thing I enjoy that seemed to have a flicker of promise is making web sites. More than a decade and a half ago, I decided I wanted to make a web site to share my love of historic costuming with anyone out there who might be interested (which was like three of us at the time, ha ha ha!) I spent a tumultuous weekend wrapping my brain around the basics of HTML, but from then on, it was smooth sailing, and I found I really love making web sites! I got excited about the potential for adding things like javascript to my site, had a ball making graphics for it, and found myself doodling layout ideas on scraps of paper. Long story short, I decided to go for a computer science degree with a programming concentration. I thought, there are plenty of jobs out there for programmers, including in my area, and there's a good chance I'll enjoy it, since I've had a taste of it with making web sites (or so I thought!)

It turns out that "real" programming is a whole other world from writing HTML! Those first couple of semesters almost killed me. It was like I had to train my brain to think in this whole new way that it didn't naturally want to do. . . Yet I was convinced it could be a good match for me because I have a lot of the personality traits that should make it work. I have great attention to detail, I'm persistent, I like tedious things, I like to challenge myself, I love puzzles. . . I just felt like, if I could just get my brain to think like a programmer, this could work! Also, I had a fantastic teacher who went above and beyond for me, being patient, supportive, and available for lots of outside-of-class-time tutoring. And then, one random day, everything just clicked! It was seriously like I'd been trying a ring of keys to open a locked door, and I'd finally located the right one. All of a sudden, I was figuring things out on my own, finding homework assignments alarmingly easy, and even speaking up in class with ideas on how to solve problems (which is a huge deal for this total introvert who typically avoids saying anything at all in class!)

So, that is what I've been up to, and why my costume-related posts have become so few and far between over the past few years. The good news is, I can see the finish line! Assuming all goes according to plan, I have only eleven months of classes standing between me and a degree. Hooray!!! I am so excited for this to be over so that I can go back to making things like I used to! I have grown so tired of feeling like there's some assignment I should be working on, or something school-related somehow looming over me, making me feel guilty every time I steal some crafting time. I'm also really excited about the prospect of having a job that I could potentially enjoy, and that is challenging and rewarding!

I wish I could say that I at least have the summer to make things, but I actually signed up for summer classes, to expedite this whole school thing! That means there won't be a lot of big projects to write about over the summer, however, since my last post (almost a half a year ago?!) I have managed to make quite a few small things. I have several skirts to write about, a couple of small costuming endeavors, and assorted other random crafty-type-things to babble about. Most recently, I've been embroidering up a storm! I took a notion to try crewel embroidery one day, and realized that embroidery projects are so wonderfully portable and easy to pick up and work on when one only has a few moments to spare, making it perfect for my lifestyle at the moment! I also got a spot in an upcoming embroidery workshop that is going to be awesome, and that I can't wait to tell you all about. So, thank you for sticking with me, and I hope I'll have some enjoyable posts for you to read in the very near future!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Miniature Gingham

I absolutely love things that are in miniature, and am a big collector of the historical American Girl dolls (and have been since they first came out!) So, when I got asked by a fellow doll-collecting Instagrammer if I had interest in combining my love for weaving and dolls and weave a modified reproduction of Kirsten’s long-retired St. Lucia tray cloth, I said yes!

Because I had only just dipped my toe into the world of using double heddles, I decided that I would first weave a sample. This would give me a good idea of exactly the size heddle, yarn, etc. that I wanted to use, and I figured it would not be a waste because I could make a little pair of placemats for my own Kirsten.

The warp for this project was, of course, very small! My Mom had a little wooden dish rack she’d brought by for repurposing into something else, but when I saw it, I thought, mini warping board!

Using a dish rack as a miniature warping board

I used some Valley Yarns 8/2 Unmercerized Cotton that I’d bought them a few months earlier during one of our Brimfield antiquing adventures, in which I dragged everyone to Webs (and have no regrets because Webs is yarn heaven, people! Also, the staff are amazing, knowledgeable, and super helpful!) These colors are “Natural” and “Sagebrush.”

Green and cream rigid heddle woven doll placemats in Valley Yarns 8/2 Cotton

This was my first adventure in making something where I wanted a fringe on all four sides. The logical thing to do seemed to be to just leave extra yarn loops on each side, and then I figured I’d hem stitch all four sides. (I really am obsessed with this hem stitching thing! It’s just so tidy and perfect, and I love it!) The resulting placemats are super cute!

Green and cream rigid heddle woven doll placemats in Valley Yarns 8/2 Cotton

Green and cream rigid heddle woven doll placemats in Valley Yarns 8/2 Cotton

I was really happy with them, but thought I could do a little bit more tweaking to the sett, and since I was waiting for back-ordered yarn anyhow, I decided to have another go. I used a slightly different sett this time, and the same yarn, but swapped out the green for the “Peaches ‘n Cream” color.

Peach and cream rigid heddle woven doll placemats in Valley Yarns 8/2 Cotton

With the green pair, controlling those weft-wise loops was a bit of a fiasco, so this time, I decided to try adding a few ends in waste yarn at approximately where I wanted the loops to end. This worked brilliantly! It really made the weaving fly by. In no time at all, I had another pair of placemats!

Peach and cream rigid heddle woven doll placemats in Valley Yarns 8/2 Cotton

Peach and cream rigid heddle woven doll placemats in Valley Yarns 8/2 Cotton

By then, I was ready to begin the actual red and white cloths. However, Webs was out of the right color of red that I needed, so I had to go hunting. I decided to try Halcyon Yarn's Homestead 8/2 cotton. I found it to be very comparable to the Valley Yarns cotton I'd been using, though perhaps a hair finer. The colors I used were Light Red 29, and Bleached White.

I ended up making three tray cloths for the lady who inspired this adventure, and her two daughters. They are quite a bit larger than Kirsten’s original tray cloth, per her request, since her tray was also larger than the original. When I finished the three cloths for her, I still had quite a bit of warp left, so I went ahead and made myself a tray cloth as well, but with dimensions closer to the original. Now I just need to come up with some sort of tray to put it on!

St. Lucia tray cloth woven on rigid heddle loom

St. Lucia tray cloth woven on rigid heddle loom

Friday, January 22, 2016

Three Woven Scarves

While I was weaving the tartan on the floor loom every Monday night in class, I wasn’t exactly sitting idly at home the rest of the week! In fact, I wove quite a few things on my beloved rigid heddle loom, including three scarves. . .

The first one came about because I was ready for something beyond plain weave, and went looking for something interesting using pick-up stick techniques. Webs' "Charlemont" (draft #55, available for free on their web site, here) fit the bill!

Valley Yarns Charlemont draft 55 woven lace scarf using pick up stick technique on rigid heddle loom

I used Valley Yarns Charlemont in the Light Grey and Teal Blue colorways, and I think this scarf only ended up using about half of each skein. This yarn is just so silky and soft that it’s a pleasure to even hold in your hands. I found that it held up to the weaving quite well, and I would weave with it again, although I suspect it might also be a real treat to knit with!

Close up of the pattern of the Webs Charlemont draft 55 woven lace scarf

I think it’s fun the way it looks completely different from the reverse than from the front. I almost think this would have been cool to stitch the ends together and make an infinity scarf out of it, so that when looped around the neck the second time, it could land with the reverse showing, but I guess I could always wrap the scarf that way!

Front and reverse side of the Charlemont 55 lace scarf

The pattern/draft itself is pretty good, but I ended up with more plain weave ends on one selvedge area than the other. It doesn't feel like enough of a variation to have been intentional, which leads me to believe there is either an error in the pattern, or I did something wrong. I really was quite careful about triple checking everything and know that my number of ends is perfect, and I am wondering if the culprit may have been inserting the pick-up stick. The pattern doesn't tell you in which direction you should insert it, so I had to guess, and perhaps if I'd gone the other way, it would have magically worked out. It really is too bad because that tiny detail has resulted in the scarf feeling uneven, and I likely won't often wear it because it drives me insane to look at the unevenness of it! Also important to note is that the resulting scarf is ridiculously prone to snagging. But all of that aside, I really do love the pattern/texture of it, and it was fun to weave something more challenging for a change!

After the slow-going Charlemont, I was ready for something simple, quick, and satisfying. I decided to make up a plain weave scarf in a variegated purple for my Aunt.

Plain weave rigid heddle woven scarf in Knit Picks Stroll Tonal

This is Knit Picks’ Stroll Tonal in the Blue Violet Color. I planned my own draft, such that I would use up the entire ball of yarn and not have leftovers. I absolutely love the way this one turned out!

Plain weave rigid heddle woven scarf in Knit Picks Stroll Tonal

The subtle variegation gives the scarf interest, and I don’t think it needs anything more than plain weave to stand out! I gave the ends delicate hem stitching, and elected not to twist or braid the ends. I think this will be fine because this merino blend has enough nylon in it that it didn’t seem to felt much at all in the washing/blocking, which means those ends shouldn’t get too ratty.

Plain weave rigid heddle woven scarf in Knit Picks Stroll Tonal

I loved the Stroll yarn so much, that I decided to use it again! This time, I used the “hand-painted” variation, in the color “Koi Pond.” I think that’s the perfect color name, because that’s exactly what this makes me think of!

Plain weave rigid heddle woven scarf in Knit Picks Stroll Hand-Painted

I used almost the same draft as I did for the purple tonal scarf, but made it a hair wider and shortened the ends so that I would have more yarn for using weft-wise, which therefore allowed me to make it a wee bit longer than the purple one. I absolutely love the way this one has a plaid-like feel, but that also, sometimes the teal would land always on the right while the orange was always on the left, and then shift so gradually as I wove that it almost gave a gentle rippling effect, which is entirely suitable for a pond-themed project! ;)

Plain weave rigid heddle woven scarf in Knit Picks Stroll Hand Painted

I also love the way even the hemstitching is variegated. . .

Variegated hem stitching on the plain weave rigid heddle woven scarf

Orange is not my favorite color, and originally I was planning to give this scarf away, but once it was complete, I found I absolutely loved it and think it might be staying with me. . . Although goodness knows how I’ll ever be able to wear as many scarves as I’ve been making lately!

Thursday, December 31, 2015


2015 was such a crazy, full year! Some of it was bad (like one of my classes this semester, with a teacher who was hell bent on trying to fail everyone) but most of it was good (like finally upgrading to a baby grand piano!) I didn't do a lot of costuming this year (just the 1920s ensemble early in the year, the sheer Regency bonnet and red reticule over the summer, and a bit of patterning and fixing/re-fitting here and there throughout the year), and I only sewed a few everyday wearable items, but I still managed to somehow average more than three finished items per month! The majority of this was weaving and miscellaneous doll and craft projects. The weaving and small projects were easier to manage without neglecting school!

I also managed to learn a lot of new stuff this year! For one, I finally converted to continental style knitting. This was well worth the effort, because I can knit so much faster now, and switching between knit and purl stitches is a dream! No regrets on this one! I also made my first foray into quilting, finally got around to trying out using seam tape to bind inner edges (and this is now my favorite edge-finishing technique), and expanded my embroidery skill set to include sashiko and crewel embroidery (which are really just variations on the basic embroidery theme!) I even managed to work in a little jewelry-making, both out of necessity (needed specific stitch markers and a commute-friendly way to count rows, so made beaded stitch markers and a row-counting bracelet) and for fun (a fabulous 18c-early 20c stone necklace, which I'll blog about some day soon!) But by far the most exciting thing I did this year was go insane with weaving!

I bought a rigid heddle loom last fall and made a simple scarf on it, but wasn't until the summer of this year that something in my brain exploded and suddenly I had to weave ALL THE THINGS! Some of it, you've already seen on my blog, and I have several more scarves and projects to post about, (including my first adventures with pick-up sticks and double heddles), but most importantly, I learned to use a floor loom!!!

For the past three months, I've been taking a weekly class at a local weaving studio, and I've been making tartan!!!!!

The loom I was assigned was big and old, and exactly my cup of tea!

First up, warping on the warping board!

Next, the hundreds of ends went on the loom and had to be pulled through metal eyes in a specific order. This took forevvvvvver!

From the back, you can really see the pattern coming together. . .

And then. . . Pulling all the ends through more slots!

Finally, it was time to tie the ends onto the front rod. . .

And at long last, weaving!

It didn’t take long for me to find my groove with the weaving, and then I was zooming along!

And in no time, it was off the loom!

Success! My very first tartan! Major bucket list item checked off!

This is the MacFarlane hunting tartan (the clan I’m descended from), and the yarn is Nature Spun Fingering by Brown Sheep. I decided to finish my fringe by twisting the ends, like this. . .

I’m sorry to say, I haven’t quite finished it yet! I managed to twist the fringe along one side, but I’ve yet to do the other side. Holidays, then a family wedding, and now another holiday slowed me down a bit (but all good reasons to put the project aside, of course!) but hopefully I’ll complete this project this weekend!