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A little house sewing, and a little housecleaning

I’m really feeling the urge to blog today, but have really struggled with picking a topic.  This is partly because while I’ve been doing tons of modern sewing, I haven’t photographed any of it, so don’t have something obvious to blog about.

More importantly it’s because I’m feeling quite down about the negativity of the internet.  It’s slightly unfair, because there are so many of you who read and comment and interact and make my corner of the internet a wonderful place, and I shouldn’t let a few negative people who just look at everything and see the flaws in it rather than all the amazing work, and time, and learning that has gone into it poison the experience.  I can laugh at the real trolls, but every once in a while the people who *think* they are being helpful but do not understand the concept of help, or charity, or kindness who get me down.

So, for those of you who do know how to support, and help, here is a quick little look at some simple sewing I’ve been doing!

Back in June we had a little gathering at the Castle, and the day before the event I decided I could not live with the terrible black curtains that had come in the house for

I’d picked up some beautiful bird-patterned linen at at Fabric-a-Brac a few weeks before, and it was just enough for the glass doors in the lounge.  I’ve always thought it would look cool to have the blinds that I’m going to make for the other lounge window be a different fabric, so I was OK that there was only enough for the doors.

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I just make super simple lined curtains, with the most basic two-pocket tape, and almost no gathering when the curtains are closed, because the room isn’t large, and I want to keep the effect as simple as possible.

Making curtains thedreamstress.com1

While making the curtains I thought to myself “you know, these would look really spectacular with vertical borders of petrol blue or midnight blue velvet…maybe I should go looking for some…”  But then I decided that I’d just get frustrated running around to all the Wellington fabric stores looking for such a thing, and I was extremely unlikely to find it, and my curtains wouldn’t get made.

Naturally, I found the exact fabric at The Fabric Store less than a week after the curtains were made.

Making curtains 2 thedreamstress.com1


So…there is going to be some unpicking and resewing in my future!

Making curtains thedreamstress.com2

These are far from a complicated or flash project, and I want to upgrade them, but they sure did feel good to get done – at least it means I no longer have black curtains!

Since making them I’ve also managed to replace the black drapes in the bedroom (yes, every single curtain in the house was black when we bought it), but have decided I don’t love them (Mr D picked the fabric 😉 ) so I’m making a new set, and the original pair will get moved to the guest bedroom (Mr D doesn’t mind – I’ve agreed to line the new pair in blackout fabric, and he loves a DARK bedroom).

Now I just need to paint out the rest of the purple paint in the house!

Whew.  That feels better 😉


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A Historical Dinner Party

The Comtesse recently finished her PhD  (woohoo!  Dr Comtesse!), and as her PhD celebration party, she threw a historical dinner.

Her PhD was in a STEM field, not history, but, as her advisor joked, in researching and planning the dinner she found “an extremely unique way to procrastinate.”  I got to know the Comtesse through her love of costuming, and one of the things I really think is fantastic about the historical costuming community is that we do come from all sorts of backgrounds and fields.

For the dinner she requested that everyone wear historical dress from a period before WWI.  I think we did rather well:

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The Sewphist borrowed my 1813 Kashmiri gown, and Madame Ornata sewed right up until the last moment on a mid-19th century plaid dress with a little draping and construction advice from me.  She still needs to figure out a bertha, but so far it is looking amazing, and definitely got the most attention on the night!

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(I just love that photo – it looks like a movie poster.  Probably for a fabulously dreadful historical murder mystery!)

I wore my just-finished-but-for-the-last-four-buttons medieval gown:

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The Comtesse was busy planning the dinner and researching and testing dishes, so she just rented a dress, but she made the most fabulous necklace based on one owned by Marie Antoinette (I think.  Possibly Josephine) which I sadly failed to get a good photograph of before the clasp got stuck and we had to switch it out.  She also found a miniature ship for her hair, and I did my best at styling it as a 1770s stormy sea-scape.

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Before dinner there was a Victorian punch with tea and redcurrant jelly (and champagne AND brandy for almost everyone but me) and period parlour games:

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After apéritifs and nibbles we sat down to eat:

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The first course was porée blanche, a medieval vegetable soup.

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I think many of us were slightly worried about the food, but the soup reassured us: it was delicious.  Delicate but flavourful, with hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.  I need the recipe!

The next course was the Victorian version of Salmagundi, a salad of meat and dressed vegetables that originated some time in the 17th or 18th centuries.

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The plat principal was a variety of meat and vegetable dishes which you could select as you preferred, served on a medieval trencher.

I passed on the rosbif,  but made a liberal selection of frumentie (soooooo delicious!), Macédoine de légumes (quite nice, but not something I’d make myself) and carrots glazed with honey, plus the sauces that accompanied the rosbif.

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And then I forgot to take a picture before I’d devoured the sauce verte and ruined the picturesque effect!

Following the mains there was a cheese platter which I failed to photograph, being too involved in chevre inspired happiness, and then we moved on to dessert.  Mmmmm…dessert….

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Dessert was a bûche de Noël with espresso cream filling.

Being quite full from all the previous courses, and knowing that I’m not actually the biggest dessert eater, I only took half a piece, and then had to ask for the second half once I’d gobbled up the first half and looked longingly at everyone else still eating theirs!  It was SO good.

But wait. There’s more!

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Following dessert there were digestifs: true mince pies (with meat, spices, and fruit) following Mrs Beeton’s recipe, fleurs confites (violets, rose petals, and lavender), and hypocras.

As a pestatarian teetotaller, I only engaged in the fleurs, finding the violets to be lovely, the rose petals too papery (though they were extremely popular with everyone else around me), and the lavender to be sensational.  I now want to add sugared lavender to EVERYTHING I make!

There were period drinks served throughout the dinner as well: herbed wines to match the courses, and for the non-drinkers, a lemon-barley drink based off of an original Victorian recipe. As someone who thoroughly disliked the lemon-barley cordial sold in shops in NZ, I was dubious, but it was delicious (though after about 11 glasses, I began to feel the definite effects of consuming about 700 times more sugar than I usually do in a day!).

The whole dinner took over 3 and a half hours.  We sat down to eat shortly before 7:30, and did not stand up again until 11.

After dinner those in corsets were definitely feeling the strain, but my medieval gown had plenty of room for more!

We still had enough energy for a quick photo session:

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And for costume discussions and show offs:

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It was a THOROUGHLY amazing experience.  I don’t know when the last time I sat down to a 7 course, four hour meal was, and each course was delicious, and the company thoroughly delightful.  I am so inspired!

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Congratulations and thank you to the Comptess!

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A loose ends lucet cord

While working on my medieval gown, I struggled with a lacing cord for it.  There isn’t much that is suitable in Wellington, and I didn’t really have time to order something in.

I used a simple linen cord to hold it the dress together while I was working on it, but it started fraying pretty quickly, and also made the dress look a little too Friar Tuck robe-ish.

1350s-70s gown fitting & details thedreamstress.com10

I researched cord options and came across lucet cords.  I read a couple of tutorials (I’m all about reading tutorials, youtube is not my thing) and realised that lucet cord is basically a two-finger yarn lei – and I know how to make yarn leis!

Unfortunately along with a dearth of period-appropriate cording in Wellington, I haven’t been able to source a lucet fork in NZ.

I started out really make do: with a plastic fork with the middle tines broken out, and linen thread.  The resulting cord was beautiful, but the making process was rather unsatisfactory.  I was only able to make rate at about 2cm an hour, and the thread kept slipping off and then I would have to unravel to get to a point where I could be sure I was at the right place to restart, and it was all quite discouraging.

I was also slightly worried that the cord was going to be so tiny and delicate that it wouldn’t be strong enough to lace my dress.

So I went and found some wider linen cord, and I improvised a lucet fork:

Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com9

Or, as Mr D puts it, in tones of scandalised horror worthy of the primmest spinster headmistress “You broke a fork!”

Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com8

I keep trying to convince him that the fork was already broken (it had a bent tine), I just improved the break into something useful, but every time he sees it he mutters about breaking forks.

With a better fork, and bigger starter cord, my lucet cording went along quite speedily.  Unfortunately I quickly discovered that it was going to be too thick for lacing, but I persevered, figuring I could use it as a belt.

And then, when it was almost done, a bit more research on medieval cording suggested that while it may have been done in the very early medieval period, lucet cording was quite passé by the 14th century, and I really should have done finger weaving.

So now I have a length of lucet cord with no obvious use.

Felicity, however, loves it, as did a friend’s cat.  Felicity wants to just hold it and rub her face against it (she’s all about texture) and Poh the cat adored chasing it.  It pulls and moves quite satisfactorily.  So, I have a historical, elaborate, expensive, cat toy?

Hey...what's this?

Hey…what’s this?

I like it! It shall be mine!

I like it! It shall be mine!

I shall bite it...

I shall bite it…

And wrestle it, and play with it...

And wrestle it, and play with it…

Until it stages a cowardly rear attack and entraps me...

Until it stages a cowardly rear attack and entraps me…

But in the end, I shall persevere, and kill it dead.

But in the end, I shall persevere, and kill it dead!

The Challenge: #9 Brown

Fabric: NA

Pattern: Based on the tutorial at Rosalie’s Medieval Woman.

Year: 10th-12th centuries (possibly), or 17th-18th centuries (definitely – and what I’ll most likely end up using it for)

Notions: 12m of linen cord

How historically accurate is it?: The end result is probably not accurate for the period I wanted it to be for (14th century), but possibly accurate for earlier periods, and definitely accurate for later.  Obviously my metal fork is not period!

Hours to complete: about 3 hours, all done while hanging out with friends or watching TV.

First worn: It’s getting plenty of wear as a cat toy, but nothing else!

Total cost:  about $7.

I may not like YouTube tutorials, but I’m learning to embrace it in other ways, because look:

Felicity makes her film debut!