Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sleeveless / Convertible Spencer: Proof of Construction!

Whee! Construction starts! Here's proof, in three pictures:

Turning in hem allowances along the armscye of one front piece -- pinning them in place prior to perpetrating a point a rabattre sous le main hem on it. Because the hem is curved, I needed a lot of pins. Otherwise the fashion fabric would have wrinkled badly.

Why is the stitching on top of Costume Close Up? Because I kept referring to it...

Hem sewing, in progress. Because I am left-handed, I sew from left to right. In Koshka-the-cat's version of the stitch, probably a more accurate one because it's faster, one makes a running stitch through the fashion fabric side of the work, but picking up a few threads of the lining hem when bringing the needle out. If one uses matching thread, this is fast and easy, and binds two layers and finishes the hem in one step.

I was concerned that my stitches be as even as possible, since I am sewing them in contrasting yellow thread for effect. Therefore, I push the needle upwards to the back, catching just the fashion fabric. Then I push the needle back through to the front, this time straight through both lining and fashion fabric. Doing so, I can measure the length of each stitch precisely. Slower, and therefore not efficiently mantua-maker-esque, but the result looks even, and nice from both front and back. Later I'll play with ways to make this stitch both fast and even.

Some finished hems. At about a hem or a lapped seam a day, it will take me a bit to complete the spencer, but it's about all the speed I can manage :}


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sleeveless / Convertible Spencer: Embroidery Completed!

At long last, eh? I started the embroidery in late April, and here it is, practically late July. The project started October 26, 2011. How's that for glacial movement?


I've worked on the project in bits and drabs, obviously. Sure wish I'd kept careful count of the hours, but would say it varied from 30 minutes to 1 hour per complete motif.

Can you find the single blue motif? Why is there only one when the effect is so nice? I meant to use more of that color. Let's make up a myth to explain it. What shall it be?

The embroidery is sparse, similar to both extant spencers in the Metropolitan from which my design is inspired. It will feel tighter, however, when the seam allowances are turned and the pleating is added to the neckline.

American or European spencer, 1800-1830
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Late 18th century spencer
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Now for construction, if I remember how to do it :}

Today I leave you with a bit of the silly season --

Three friends outside the entrance to the formal garden at Ashland Estate.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Will I Be There, or Not? The JaneFest Cliffhanger

La Migraine. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. My
favorite part of this picture? The maid running to
halt the little boy playing a big drum. Ohhh, the pain!
Our heroine holds one hand to the back or her neck, the other to her forehead, and lapses into a reverie. Will she take tea with friends the weekend next, not any ordinary tea, mind you, but four courses of delectables and multiple pots of proper looseleaf, piping hot? Will she happen upon a duel, attend a play and keep one eye on the stage while the other admires the company around her? Will she stroll meadows and allees under her parasol? Will she seek and gladly find the company of friends old and new?

Or will -- here her head drops to the marginal comfort of her crossed forearms -- will she lie in her chamber, the curtains drawn against excruciating light, her ears stopped with pillows to the ordinarily dear sounds of her own children, a heating pad under the neck and a cold compress on the forehead, wrestling in despair with the devils hammering at all sides of her head?

That moment lies in the next chapter, my friends, but if plot twists past indicate accurately, the abominable headache bed is as likely as the Jane Austen Festival. For our heroine and her family are prey to the migraine and to the spectre of overwork.

+ + + + +

Well, let's leave that grim scene, shall we? I've visited it too often in the last year to make writing about it any more than a barren pleasure.

So, if you see me next weekend at the Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove in Louisville, with my twins in hand, let's celebrate together, for I've been looking forward to returning to the festival since last July. Bonnie Wise and all the staff and volunteers put on a really memorable Regency-themed weekend. If you don't see me, you will know that a) I am trying to keep the boys far from my husband's office, where he is working with few breaks, or b) the headache bed has reclaimed its victim and unseated the entire family's equilibrium.

If you do see me, you probably won't see this, at least finished and on my back:

The back section of the sleeveless spencer, pinned to the embroidery frame
It's the back piece of the sleeveless spencer, underway since last fall. Love you as I do, it's about time, Miss Spencer that you finished yourself up, for you're getting borrrrrring to your readers and realllllllllly boring to me, too. In fact, I wish you would finish yourself up, yourself, and leave me out of it, while I go work, or fold laundry, or weed the garden, or have dinner with my husband and boys, or picnic with friends, or pet the cats, or finish Blue at the Mizzen, or sleep, anything but see your pretty purple face, undone.

De Saint-Aubin's The Art of the Embroiderer, 1770

One final motif, at the bottom center of that back piece, needs doing. I am slowly getting better at embroidering them, especially with the assistance of a new book that's taken abode here, de Saint-Aubin's L'Art du Brodeur, or The Art of the Embroiderer. Hallie Larkin wrote about the book in May. I'd known of its existence of course, but only in French, and when Hallie Larkin said that LACMA had put out a facsimile version with English translation, in the 1980s, I was on the hunt like white on rice. Finally nabbed a copy at a quarter of the usual price. You all, if you embroider 18th century style, you have to have this book, and you must read it with great attention, and then compare text and images it to modern-day resources like Mary Corbet's Needle 'n Thread and 18th Century Clothing Techniques, then go muse and experiment.

For example, I could have been doing my flat silk embroidery with what is now known as split stitch, and have avoided the issues that have arisen with trying to do shading with laid stitch. Split stitch was the recommended method for embroideresses to use when doing shaded flat silk work. The stitch remains today, and Mary Corbet has an online tutorial about it, as part of her long-and-short-stitch tutorial, bless her.

Then too, de Saint-Aubin at last convinced me of what no one else could, that pinning my work to the impromptu embroidery frame may be fine for loose work on gauze, but not for silk. I need a real frame to get the proper tension and so avoid the puckers that bother some of the motifs. Now to figure out how to make one, because purchasing one is not in the cards -- erm -- wallet.

Finally, the book tells us how to work with silk chenille! At last, solid help in this area, for it's actually not as easy at it seems! Is anything ever as easy as it seems? Really?

+ + + + +

Ah, the current headache has lifted a little. It's not a migraine, just a run-of-the-mill bother, and I can at least write a bit. Now it's to work awhile. A deadline looms next week, and if I get a jump on it, so much the better. One never knows what the next day will serve up.