Dressing the house: Lampshades & Lampshade making

I teach sewing classes at Made on Marion in Wellington, but for the last couple of years Maryanne has been teaching lampshade making classes, and I have been soooo envious.

Not because I want to teach lampshade making (for one thing, I didn’t know how to make a lampshade), but because all the lampshades that came out of the class were sooo gorgeous, and I desperately wanted to take the class and make my own!

Unfortunately, out old flat was really, really small, and there was simply no-where to put a lamp, plus, I didn’t want to make one that might not go with a house if we managed to buy one!

But, yay, back in Feb we bought our house, and as soon as we did I was on the hunt for lamps and lampstands!

In June, I had a lampstand (and some lamps) and a free weekend, so major excitement: class time!

Not only did I get to take the class, but I got to take it with Madame O: sooo fun!

Madame O picked a fabulous toile de jouy style fabric featuring telephone boxes and angel statues covering their eyes (don’t blink), and at the last minute I found a striking black and white fabric with foxes and houses and mushrooms and snails and turnips and artichoke trees and other awesomeness.

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com

Following the clear and entertaining instructions from Maryanne we were off, cutting and measuring and glueing and taping and rolling, helping each other along and admiring the fabrics that other students brought in.

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com
Maryanne is an excellent teacher, and it was so much fun to be a student for once!

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com

Lampshade making turned out to be really easy, but in the ‘if you are taught to do it and someone worked out all the tricky bits it’s a breeze’ sense of easy, not the ‘anyone could figure this out’ type of easy, so I was really glad I didn’t try to struggle through the frustration of just having a go!

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com

After lots of giggles, and lots of information, and lots of “Ah-hah!  That’s how they do it!” moments, I had a lampshade:

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com

Sooooo exciting!

Check out how gorgeous our lampshades are!

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com

As much as I love my fabric, Madame O’s toile is sooo covetable!  Unfortunately, the only place in our house it would work is as bedside lamps, and that might be just a little too scary.  Don’t blink!

Having taken the class, I was addicted!  I immediately bought two more kits for standing lamps (best part about the kits?  Most of the materials are made in New Zealand!), and made them up:

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com

The grey and sulpher yellow on linen is a reproduction print from Winterthur, and goes in our lounge.  You may have seen it in situ in my post about our house.

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com

And the chintz is a fabric I found at an op-shop ages ago, and hoarded it in wait of a house.  It goes in the guest bedroom, which is eventually going to be chinoiserie themed.

Lampshade making at Made on Marion thedreamstress.com

I love the creepy little birds on the chintz!

If you are in Wellington, or can come up for a weekend, I highly recommend the lampshade making class.  So fun, and so satisfying (and I’m not just saying that because Maryanne is a friend and I’m associated with Made on Marion – I have to really love something to write a rave blog post, otherwise I grumble all the way through it, as you well know ;-) ) !

Maryanne also offers lampshade making in Martinborough every few months, and if you are further afield you can order kits (complete with instructions!) off of etsy.

And that’s my first post about making something for the house!  Happiness!

Doing a Jantzen: 1920s bathers

I was (and still am) working on an elaborate project for the Historical Sew Fortnightly The Great Outdoors challenge, but (as so often happens), I’m busy dealing with stuff, and won’t be able to get it done in time, so it’s been pushed back to a later challenge.

Luckily, I quite unexpectedly ended up with the inspiration for a simpler alternative item.  I’ve been working my way through all the various T-shirt patterns that are available at the moment.

I was trying the Tessuti Alexa T (not linking to it, because really, don’t buy it – SO overpriced for what it is) in a gorgeous fuchsia merino blend knit.  Unfortunately, I was so disappointed in the cut of the T-shirt that it was unfixable (enormous armholes.  You can fix almost anything but enormous armscythes in a T-shirt), and I almost threw it away.

Then I remembered the gorgeous fuchsia swimsuit that Knotrune did for the HSF Art challenge.  She was inspired by Picasso’s Bathers, and my fuchsia wool was the same shade, and looking at Bathers, it wouldn’t be too hard for me to cut my T-shirt neckline’s down to match Picasso’s

Les baigneuses (The Bathers), Pablo Picasso, 1918

Les baigneuses (The Bathers), Pablo Picasso, 1918

Of course, I had a T-shirt, and The Bathers are wearing one pieces.  Off to do some research, which yielded, this:

Ta da! Early 1920s Jantzen girl wonderfulness – in two pieces!

So I adjusted the neckline of my T-shirt, bound it and the armscythes, and used the last of my merino to whip up a pair of knee-length shorts (using Cake’s Espresso leggings pattern, which I DO recommend, as my base).

And the result:

1920s inspired bathing suit thedreamstress.com

Ta da!  Early 1920s (ish) swimwear wonderfulness!  On me!

Because it’s the middle of winter, and far too cold to be outside in a swimsuit (even a wool one), I posed inside, in the bathroom.  It seemed vaguely suitable, especially when I pretended to dive into the bath!

1920s inspired bathing suit thedreamstress.com

I’m really happy with my swimsuit, but I am just thinking of it as a working toile – it’s certainly not period perfect, but it does the job, and will help me to make another one that is perfect later on.

1920s inspired bathing suit thedreamstress.com

For now, it’s fun to wear, and it might even get a trial dip in the sea once the weather is warmer.

1920s inspired bathing suit thedreamstress.com

I might have to work on my diving form though…

1920s inspired bathing suit thedreamstress.com
Here are some flat shots, if you are interested in the construction:

Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com

Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com

I was short on fabric so had to do a bit of piecing:

1920s inspired bathing suit thedreamstress.com

1920s inspired bathing suit thedreamstress.com

The Challenge: #15 The Great Outdoors

Fabric: 1ishm of merino/something synthetic (probably nylon) blend knit.

Pattern: Extremely altered versions of Tessuti’s Alexa T (I don’t think there was a single line left that matched their pattern by the time I was done), and slightly altered Cake Espresso leggings.

Year: 1918-1924

Notions: polyester thread, elastic

How historically accurate is it?: Not much at all, since it didn’t start out as a period item.  The construction itself is plausible, though I should have done my bindings slightly differently to match the period examples I have studied.  The knit is much finer than a period knit.  The overlocking is actually accurate, as overlockers have been around since the 1880s, and in the ‘teens and 20s were commonly used on knitwear and swimsuits.

Hours to complete: 3 or thereabouts, depending on whether you count my fussing with the Alexa pattern as part of the construction.

First worn: For the photoshoot

Total cost: I paid $15 for a 3x metres length of the merino at a clearance sale, and also made a long-sleeved T (that actually works!) out of it, and a cardigan, so lets say $5 +$1 in notions = $6 for the swimsuit.

And (of course), most importantly:
Does Felicity approve?  Well, she certainly enjoyed hanging out with me as I sewed it!
Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com


Rate the Dress: a galant Nymph in a Robe a la Chinoise, retroussée

Last week for Rate the Dress I showed a late Victorian walking dress, which the Mint Museum had styled as a skating suit.  The mad authentic steampunk-ness of the ensemble captured some of your fancies, but the overall response ranged from quite negative to ‘it’s nice, but I’m not impressed’, so 7.3 out of 10.

My description came in at top points though!

This week I present another ‘walking’ dress, but this one with even less pretense of practicality:

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 5e Figure, 1785

Believe it or not, this is an outfit for walking (in the late 18th century sense at least).  Our ‘galant nymph,’ parasol at the ready, is hastening (‘tranquilly’, no less) toward the Palais Royal.

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 5e Figure, 1785

Her ensemble is described as a robe a la Chinoise (I believe that is meant to be Chinese inspired, and the parasol probably added to the effect), with the skirt lifted up  to reveal her striped petticoat and tucked through the pocket slits (retroussée).

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 5e Figure, 1785

The nymph’s bodice is also striped, with a striking chevron placement going up the centre back, and uncharacteristic (for the 18th century) horizontal stripes on her sleeves.  A double-layered pinked ruffle, fur tippet, and bouffant frame her neckline.

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 5e Figure, 1785

On her head she wears a bonnet á la Richard  (inquiring minds want to know, which Richard inspired a cascade of pinked pink ribbon, a plethora of ruffles and poufs, all surmounted with a flourish of ostrich feathers in pink and grey?  Is is supposed to be some sort of Medieval Lion-Hearted tribute?)

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 5e Figure, 1785

And her lifted skirt reveals white stockings and bowed shoes in a rich wine purple that perfectly coordinates with the stripes on her bodice and skirt.

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 5e Figure, 1785


Here she is again, in her be-wigged and be-poofed splendor, her deportment ‘majestic, noble, and proud’ (the writer who captioned the Galerie des Modes really didn’t hold back).

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 5e Figure, 1785

Clearly, it’s not an outfit for heavy exercising.  But from the era of fashion excess, for a light promenade on a sunny day, when one can admire the outfits of the other ladies, and be admired in turn, it’s perfectly admirable.


Or is it resoundingly awful?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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