Saturday, March 30, 2019

Eh, what's that? Am I writing again?

Nutmeg, who joined us later in 2016.
Found with her three sisters on a
country road in Anderson County
we took her in and she is a darling
companion with a silly streak,
thus her nickname,
Nutty Nutmeg.
Yes, essaying, anyhow, to see how it goes.

Sometimes I've missed writing in the way I suspect a runner misses running, longing for the exhilaration after a good workout, but relieved that the joints aren't hurting or there's no longer the inevitability of having to push past the ragged breath and throbbing muscles in the middle of a long, evil hill.

At other points, I was fairly sure that making costumes and blogging about the research and construction behind them were part of a past life, finished, and viewed the way you do when you think about a job you held once, that you enjoyed, before you switched gears and went off in a different direction. That job and its lingo and concerns were, as months passed, experiences you didn't quite understand anymore.

Last I wrote, I was still struggling with a dress inspired by a Vernet plate, and my kitty muse Miss Blueberry Muffin had passed away. The twins were growing fast and were huggable when I could catch them, work was bloody nuts. Usually work is something I enjoy, or it's nuts in a good way, but I have attempted to bury 2016-2017 deeeep, because it plumb wore me out.

Tired -- dog, bone, dead, done tired out, sapped by migraines and digestive problems that meant an interesting diet of Ensure for breakfast, Ensure and bread for lunch, Ensure and oyster crackers for dinner. Doctor's visits, new medications, and if I saw a set of stairs, I'd mentally steel myself to make it halfway up a flight before having to stop. To breathe. I gave up carrying laundry baskets. Ooh, I'd like to do that again, but that's not fair dinkum to the family, is it?

In a happy moment with friends at a wedding shower.
So I just stopped. Costuming. Blogging. I said goodbye to Facebook, to where it seemed the whole of the planet was flocking anyway, but where I began to feel like quite a stranger, on my own feed. But let's walk away from that cultural and ethically challenged meadow -- morass -- swamp -- Dead Marshes where are lit little candles to entice the unwary.

By the way, if you have a 10-year-old boy and together you say "swammmmp", drawn out, in your deepest voice, like a bullfrog, and repeatedly, it's hilarious. Christopher and I croaked "swammmmp" on the Amtrak train from Richmond to Washington, DC, each time the view out the train window went wet or reedy, and laughed until tears were running down my face. His brother wasn't impressed and returned to Rick Riordan.

Life's focus became living with most of the frills removed. All those with chronic illness might be smiling wanly in recognition. I salute us, get-through-each-day warriors all.

And then I did something dad-gum stupid

Do you like skiing? Snow-skiing, as we say here in the South, to differentiate it from flying over glass-smooth water or wavetops behind a motorboat. I love both, but especially skiing on snow. It's speed, it's exhilaration, it's the shssss sound of carving a minute groove into groomed powder, it's more speed, and hot chocolate with your family and your friends in your clomping snow boats and undone snow jacket afterwards, red-faced and thoroughly happy.

January 6, 2018, we took the boys skiing to our local ski bump, a north-facing bluff in a valley off the Ohio River. And there I crossed a Rubicon, on a cloudless day, about 24 degrees Fahrenheit, on a green slope -- no, it was a bunny slope -- where my husband and I were re-introducing the boys to moving downhill on waxed boards.

As the surgeon's resident said later, it was a classic wishboning. Gee, that's raw, but that's what happened to both knees. My son Noah forgot how to snowplow, forgot how to stop, and at one mile an hour ran into me and we both spilled into the snow. He fought his way upright, and I did the same, though even less elegantly, but there was a slope in front of both skis, but what I didn't see -- a slope leaning off to the left. Slowly, so slowly, the two skis went their separate ways and --. End of description: it just wasn't fun, although it was so cold that it nothing hurt after the initial fall, even when bundled into the emergency sled by the Ski Patrol, joking all the while out of nerves and embarrassment. Well, don't ski when you've been existing on poor food and less exercise for several years. It's like the guy with heart disease who thinks he can shovel a driveway after a 10-inch snowfall, no problem.

Stupid can lead you in a good direction sometimes

Sledding in 2019. I'll not be skiing again, but you can't
take the snow out of the girl, and darned if I'll ever
remove the ski slope tag from my jacket, even if
it does record the fateful date.
I tore both knees up, but one worse than the other, and had it rebuilt, and tired my blessedly patient and kind-hearted family out with caring for someone in a wheelchair and then crutches for what seemed ever, and spent nine happy -- yes, happy! -- months in physical therapy. It all hurt like billy-oh, because physical therapy is supposed to push you to use the injured limb(s) again. It did more than that: it pushed me back together, and now I've got my mojo back.

Like way back. There are wrinkles on my face, and the upper arms aren't firm like they are in old photos from 15 years ago, alas, but I'm back at the gym like I used to be long before costuming was even a term I'd heard of. Not exactly a gym rat anymore, but a middle-aged gym buff, happy once again at the weights and the machinery that mimics walking and stair-climbing and arcing, whatever that is :} And I can eat. Which is why I am not slender. Trying to be more so, but that's a work in progress.

Costuming returns?  

Liam, his girlfriend Lana, and daughter Nina at my friend Sarah's farm. Liam is the patriarch Shetland wether.
That's one of Sarah's Soay sheep off to the left. Soays are rare, wily, witty
personable sheep. Shetlands are also personable, but calmer. Liam
toddles rather than gallops :}
With improving health, returned the urge to make things. I've been spinning wool for some years, as the whim takes, and have multiply fleeces from Lana and Nina, our sheep, waiting to become yarn: they can grow a fleece faster than I can spin it, by many a long mile. I should, by rights, be wedded to the spinning wheel.

However, some of you have been blogging all along, and some have returned from what appears to be a general 2016 exodus, and I've been enjoying reading about what you all make, and enjoying the videos that some of you have posted. You and your experiences and your wit and laughs, and researches, have been such a delight. Am rejoining you, and now there are two projects en train.

1750s stays

1770s English gown made several years ago, worn fall 2018. I am
wearing the apron over the gown, which
you see often in paintings, but it does
emphasize a shorter waistline.
First, a pair of late 1750s stays. My 1770s stays are perfectly serviceable, thanks to the solid job Sarah of Romantic History did on them years ago, but a longer pair of stays would offer a more long-waisted, more slender look.

Like many of you, I have a copy of Patterns of Fashion 5, and spent almost a week examining the graphed examples and the many fantastic photos of the exteriors and interiors of the stays included in the book.

Fascinated by the truly conical stays, and how so many feature a built-up front of layers of buckram, I plumbed the Web for detailed portraits, and noticed how the bottoms of many bodices, and stomachers, appear like the bottom of an ice cream cone, if it were cut in half. How the front dipped very low, and rose up with to the side of the hips quite dramatically. Usually these portraits were of women in either their best clothes, or wealthy undress.

It occurred to me that my own silhouette might be improved by mimicking that longer line with a pair of high-fashion stays, low front, thrown-back shoulders and all.

So, you'll be hearing about them. I've completed a boned mockup and am ready to try it on.

1880 summer dress

1880 summer dress plan. Limited artistic talent on display.
You can blame Frances Grimble for that one. Periodically I pull out her books and re-skim them. The 1870 steampunk dress was fun to wear, though it needs a renovation with bodice boning, hooks between skirt and bodice, and additional trims, and this time I won't wear my corset upside down.

However, it's not a dress to picnic in. Wouldn't it be nice to have a lightweight non-bustled dress one could flop down in onto a boulder or blanket for a picnic with friends?

Thus we have a new Kay Gnagey 1876 corset on order, and all the materials ready for a cotton chambray princess-seamed redingote and flounced skirt outfit, patterned from a Harper's Bazar pattern in Frances Grimble's Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 1. More on that dress later.

Another frolic, this time on water

Sparkling, lapping, plashing, spilling, mirroring, roaring, I love everything about water except undertows, thunderstorms, and monster waves, and have done since I was so young that memories are like spotty, split-second vignettes. I grew up around water, in it, beside it, along it, sometimes under it, and especially on it. Canoeing, rafting, motorboating, rowing crew, and, love of all water loves, sailing. Our daddy took us out on his little Sunfish lookalike on sunny afternoons, and our aunts and uncles and cousins were Navy people and/or spent their leisure time racing or on pocket cruisers and weekend outings on the Chesapeake and Lake Ontario and off the Florida coast.

Yet here was our family, plop smack on the sea of grass that is the Kentucky Bluegrass. Years passed and I despaired of doing other than walking and fossiling alongside Kentucky streams plppp plppp plipping in that bewitching way they have, a wary eye out for copperhead snakes, mud, and the gnawed bones left occasionally left by coyotes.

Until last year. The Kingfisher is my version of the 55-year-old man's Corvette or Mini Cooper with racing stripes. It's another player in the multi-roped tug-of-warm among costuming and spinning and running around with Curte and the twins. It's the fulfillment of the promise I made to myself to Get Up and Live Anyway after so many years of ill health.

Setting sail, Christopher in the bow, and Noah handling the mainsheet.
The paddle boat nearby offers perspective as well as bringing me down to size :}
It's the miniature version of the classic tale titled "Boat: a Hole Into Which You Pour Money". 12 feet long, 45 years old and needing work, of course -- so rather a "bargain". High-prowed because it was meant partly as a yacht tender in big waters, with close, familiar, okay tight, seating for four, and a tall mast capable carrying two sails to pull her fast over our local lake. Oh come on, Jacobson Park Lake is really a gargantuan pond, but it's pretty and it's just big enough, and there's Cave Run Lake like a coiling dragon among the Knobs just an hour away.

Forward, ho

Let's set sail again, then, hey? Let's explore those stays and how they fit, or don't, and how I will wrangle 6-inch-wide eyelet onto the curves of a redingote, and let's feel breezes on our faces, and hear fsshhh-flssshh of the Kingfisher cleaving the prow of our trusty craft. Let's visit the flock and hear them rrrip, munch grass and listen to Mira the Soay complain ba-ba-ba that all crunchy treats are for her alone, everyone else get off, get away.

I can't promise to write regularly, but let's give it a try again, shall we? I've missed you.

Until then, very best.