Good Evening, LJ!

Well, I went for my last class in the men's 18th century tailoring sequence last week...and it was great! I knuckled down and though the official photo of the class hardly shows--I got more done than anyone else. That said, I am feeling my deficiencies vis a vis the actual 18th c. tailor much more severely. They were--well, so much more than me, in more ways than I can possibly explain. Savviness over cut, pattern making skills, sewing proficiency... Still, I've committed--I'm going to measure and cut two more patterns for breeches next week. Now, perhaps because I am under the mild influence of awesome homemade alcohol, I'm going to confess a dirty secret of the 18th century: properly fitting 18th century breeches requires a most invasive measurement of the male perineum. It was easy to accomplish that with a man I've been living with for the past 18 years...but with strangers, I'm just going to have to get it done (and if that is weird--well, these sucka breeches will be tight and fit, even in the crotch).

That said, recent efforts to plan a multi generational trip to Rome (next fall) have made me aware that standards were so different backin the Rennaissance. Nekkid guys--not a big deal. Renaissance men would much rather strip than damage a good set of clothes. On the other hand, nekkid gals--not so well received. Most men never ever saw their wives without clothes, even after marriage. Another way that the past is a different country...Indeed, an event that had adulterers running in their shifts (garments coming fully to the knees) were viewed as mildly pornographic.

BTW, the trip to Rome is going awesome. Since announcing the offer to family, my in-laws and father and girlfriend are coming. It makes for an awesome company, but a rooming challenge. After a bit of dickering with various landlords, we settled with the owner of an apartment just off of the Via Guila (and one block from the Palazzo Farnese) a medieval building with an elevator! Meanwhile, I ran a test balloon to R. the other day--what about staying on by ourselves and going to Florence/Venice. Now R's passion is getting to the Leonardo da Vinci museum (in Florence), so this wasn't really a hard sell. We're doing two weeks! Plus heading sometime to see the Leonardo drawings exhibiting in Williamsburg! Now I just have to get it approved at work (which shouldn't be all that difficult, since it's the Thanksgiving holiday).

But work is the weird part. Work is fine, but it looks clearer than ever that my department is going to head eventually to Chicago. Last week, I got word that the VP wanted me to apply for a lateral transfer to the PR department to act as head of vendor management. I said ok, so Monday I have an interview...with my current boss (who recommended me). I don't get it, but I'll roll with whatever they want. We'll see.

Meanwhile, this weekend is my crazy electronics weekend. I was recently elevated to a full member of NoVA labs--a hackerspace in Reston. I am getting over my technology issues and really enjoying it. Meanwhile, this weekend, I"m starting on assembling a hexcopter. Now if those who know how technologically inept I am may understand--this is a huge challenge. I'm taking it step by step...and hopefully, I"ll end with something that flies!



More photos?

I finished the last workshop for the coat workshop...with lots to complete, but with a pretty clear idea of what I need to finish. I actually think I will get this piece done before next month's  breeches workshop, at which the core crew will be having a display in public (breeches or not). 

The best thing about this extended workshop has been the crew. By this weekend (which was, for most of us our third weekend working together) the connection was sealed. We may not share reenacting units, but the connection may be deeper.

That said, getting the coat to a place where it looks like a coat was a crap load of work. In period--it would take about a week's labor hours for a single tailor. For me...probably 150 hours, mostly comprised of the "what the heck am I supposed to do now?" category. Now that I have a better mental grasp on it, I'm wondering how many hours it would really take. Right now, that's leading me toward techniques for a riding habit or variant thereof.

Well, my Thanksgiving trip to Rome is going crazy. Insanely crazy. Somehow saying traveling that week makes sense in a way other weeks are stupid (3 work days off to get a full week).  I don't have any reservations, but my family has already overbooked every option we are negotiating at this point. The only thing that might be left in the unit (considering we are likely going to take a couch in the living room) is a single bed...and with an overbooked apartment...who cares? It looks like we may have my dream crew: a biannual crew with a partying sense to take on the most celebratory visits to Europe (I think in two years we'll hit London). And even though we may be the only costumers in the group (mostly since family took every slot), I feel helplessly compelled to outfit 16th century gown to stay in a 16th century home!

I will post photos soon of the coat, though it will be on a dummy mannequin, since Rick is taking the week off for a climbing trip. Must sew...


Just Say NO to Shunning

Over the weekend, I got word of yet another incident where one costumer felt another costumer had slighted her. In retaliation, she got all her friends to shun the offending costumer.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen or heard word of this kind of treatment. Word of these incidents are getting so common that it's gone to the point where I feel it’s time I can't be silent any more. I, who don't post frequently, felt I had to de-lurk to speak out on this subject.
In this incident, as with others, nobody bothered to permit the offending costumer a chance to defend herself—to find out if the slight was intentional—or if it even occurred. Instead, punishment was meted out with no explanation to the offender, who found herself inexplicably expelled from expected social interactions.
Geesh—how on earth did our hobby become such a club of mean girls?
Shunning is identified by psychologists as a form of bullying behavior and has been clinically connected with depression, PTSD and suicide. I’ve been shunned in the past and it was a mystifying and heartbreaking experience.
If you’ve done this, look objectively at the person you are shunning and decide if your hurt is really worth getting personally perceived as a mean-spirited bully. While some may follow you on your campaign of retaliation—word will spread, as it did to me this weekend. Believe me—when my friend shared word of this incident, my only perception of the incident was that the retribution was mean, petty and vindictive.
It only ended up hurting the bullying costumer's reputation, not the woman who may or may have not slighted her. I"m not going to shun this costumer, but I'm definitely going to be wary of her. Other friends of mine are taking care to completely avoid her.

Now of my friend list here--I honestly don't think anyone would act like this--but I think we have to get Zero-tollerant on this kind of behavior. Children are taught to fight shunning behavior in elementary schools--isn't it about time that we act better than 5th graders?

So, I'm writing this as a open post and hoping it's a subject we start talking about at events and here online. Maybe if more folks write about it in their own LJs and blogs, it might stop. We are the majority, not the bullies. It's time we stood up for civility.
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    pissed off pissed off

B&T Workshop--Waistcoat

Just back from another Burnley & Trowbridge workshop on making waistcoats led by the very talented tailor Neil Hurst. It was a lot of fun, productive--and as usual, eye-opening. 

The dynamic was a little different from other B&T workshops, however. The workshop was much more relaxed, since it was Level One, with concepts covered more slowly. Also, many folks had spouses or children as "customers" so there was a constant hub of socializing. My customer--Rick (aka, DH)--was mentally caught up in a novel he couldn't rip his eyes away from, so he wasn't into much socializing. So, when I had down time in the beginning (after I measured up my spouse and made my pattern), I sewed up half of a cap for myself! In an odd way, it kind of reminded me of what a real period shop environment might have been like...

It wasn't all work and no play, though! We shared an apartment rental over the weekend with another couple, the Dobyns--and had a wonderful time keeping company while doing homework, watching movies and dining with other workshop participants. 

The class featured a very detailed process of measuring, pattern drafting and fitting. Once I drafted my pattern, I cut it out of my lining fabric, test fit it on Rick and fussed over it. He picked (after considerable indecision over fabrics) a gorgeous light wool broadcloth fabric that handled like butter. Combine the right pattern with amazing fabric and correct tailoring techniques--the result was stunning, even in the partially sewn version I left with!

Afterwards, we all were remarking how distinct the period fit really is--maybe it's just the result of more trained eyes, but our hand sewn waistcoats look astonishingly better. Machine sewing using commercial patterns is far from the period methodology. Modern patterns seem to always reflect modern fit details and machine sewing leads to a garment that really does not hang correctly. 

As a bonus, I sat down with Angela Burnley and figured out all the things I was doing wrong with my gown construction from the workshop I took last summer. I am very glad I held off on sewing to ask her--I was headed in slightly wrong directions on a couple of small finishing points. Fortunately, not much more left to complete on that project (well, not counting trim)!

Additionally, I brought  along the child stays I'd made previously (in another B&T workshop). It done, except for binding--and I had promised to donate it to the Yorktown Battlefield museum. I brought it and showed it to the costume director and he was thrilled--that was gratifying.

A bit of homework remains, but it's been totally fun! Can't wait until the next workshop!
Harem Girl

DC Lightroom Photo Workshop

On the side, I've enjoyed photography for a long time--though my work in this hobby has largely been focused on events--mostly political appearances and a few weddings. Through sheer necessity (and work), I've learned to take informal portraits--to the point where I've been paid for some photos and my candids have been featured on major campaign websites. However, outside that box, I feel that I lack photographic skills. This year, I got a new camera--and I really wanted to broaden my capabilities. I started listening to podcasts and quickly found that my favorite was Photography Tips from the Top Floor by Chris Marquardt. Ironically, this podcast is mostly only in audio, but Chris' clear way of explaining the more complicated aspects of photography transcends the media: he breaks down complicated theory into understandable points. So, when I learned that he was going to run a workshop right here in Washington, DC--I jumped at the chance to learn from him first-hand. That's what I did this weekend.

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I've been plugging away at the purple silk Robe Anglaise that I started at the workshop set up by Burnley & Trowbridge. Last week, I spent at least 12 hours fussing over the skirt pleats. I'd made one of these gowns years ago and the memory of pleating had become delightfully forgotten. Those pleats were a true pain (and memory came back of the agony beforehand)! When I finally got something I could live with, I stitched the pleats together (though I have not sewn them in the gown yet).  I also finished most of the hemming.

Then there were the sleeves...

We draped the sleeves in class, but there was no really connection between the independent fitting efforts for the sleeves and the gown--so they needed to be refitted to match when setting them. Fortunately, joslinm  came over Saturday, we had a fun time with dinner & the guys and she fit one sleeve for me.

Sunday I worked at basting both in place--first, carefully marking where the fabric met, cutting it back and then replicating the fit on the other sleeve. There was a complicated bit about setting them differently on the top from the bottom, which I never realized when I made my last gown. I took my time, basted it in place and brought it to my sewing circle meeting last night.

My friend debbiedoodle  is one of the most knowledgeable people I know on the 18th century clothing--and she looked right at the sleeve and instantly realized I set the sleeves incorrectly--sliding them over (instead of under) at the top, and the opposite on the bottom. 


Well, at least it isn't the hardest thing in the world to fix. I'm pretty sure I reversed it somehow when I worked on it last Sunday.  I'll re-baste it, put in my final stitching and chalk it up to experience.

Debbie is making a gown for herself, so we had fun checking out the accessories she's got planned and discussing how to trim mine (my latest thought is that fairly simple is most period correct, which she said was right for mid 1780s). 

So, back to work! This weekend, however, I have a photography workshop--so I may not finish this one until next week. Then on to making another gown (my plan is to make another so I remember what I've done).

At Work on my Robe Anglaise

I made progress on my purple robe anglaise last night. I hemmed the front edges of the skirts and started stitching down pleats. I still have to backstitch them in the gown, but I think I'm going to steam them first, since I have really over handled the silk making pleats. All I have ahead is the bottom hem, sleeves and the back facing. However, doing the sleeves on my own will be interesting, since they aren't fully fit yet and should be fit on me live...

My plan after this is to hold off on trimming until I make another gown. I will also probably remount the petticoat, since it's longer than the gown and I want smaller pleats.

Right now, I want to get the thoughts of the workshop fully in my brain, so hence the notion of a new gown soon. I have some lovely camlet (wool with a little silk and linen) for one I can wear to events.

Meanwhile, Angela (of Burnley & Trowbridge) has posted pictures of the workshop I took for this gown on her Facebook page. I'm also loving checking out the photos from Costume College--so inspiring, yet so distracting!

In Which I Learn the Art of Mantua Making

As mentioned previously, I spent this weekend to Burnley and Trowbridge's Robe Francaise workshop. It was taught by the very talented Brooke Welborn, a journeyman mantua maker who graduated from the Williamsburg apprentice program at the milliner's shop. I travelled with my fitting partner, Melissa Jarrett and our respective spouses, Rick and Dave. 

After a very difficult start (getting bumped around by our accommodations, so we didn't get much sleep the first night), Rick and I went to Colonial Williamsburg for our one free morning...And at 9 am, it was already muggy and 105 degrees! So, we went quickly to the places with a/c, starting first at the Millinery Shop. We checked out the current project--a lovely robe anglaise with over the top trimmings...
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Back to Sewing

I thought I'd post here, since it's been a while since I've posted anything--and a while since I've been sewing. Since work has stopped me from doing pretty much most events (the inevitable reality I've faced since I earn no vacation time), I've skipped pretty much everything this year. Add to that the extra 20 lbs I've gained over the past two years left me ill fit in most costumes. So, I've demurred from most events. Fortunately, I'm back on Weight Watchers and getting interviews for new jobs. Two weeks ago, at the urging of a friend, I went to the local sesquicentennial reenactment of the early civil war battle that occurred locally. It was a very big event and I felt darn good! It's nice to have costuming mojo back, though right now I don't have any events in mind (though I suppose there are always dances at Gadsby's tavern).

Which is a very good thing, since in three week's time, I'm going to Burnley and Trowbridge's Robe Anglaise workshop. I've made these kind of gowns, but I've never felt good about folding down the back pleats. So...hopefully this will do the trick. In preparation, I've finally bound a set of stays I made two years ago (what a pain) and I made the petticoat for the gown.

The class is for a hand sewn gown, so I made this by hand. The silk is pretty dark--but it's what I had on hand and after emailing shots of it to Angela, it was deemed okey dokey (I may post more about my fabric choice thoughts later).

So, earlier this week and yesterday, I got sewing. It's a basic apron tied petticoat (tworectangles of cloth sewn up the sides to 10" of the top, then pleated onto two lengths of twill tape like front and back facing apron strings).  I'd say working on it took five hours, including time I spent un-doing the back and reworking it to make it fit better over the bum roll (I added more fabric to accomodate that). 

I'm holding off trimming it--true Robe Anglaises were, from what I can see in period prints and portraits, generally sparsely trimmed, particularly in American portraits. I'm thinking I'll probably stick to just some pinked ruffles at the neckline and possibly the sleeves. Another consideration I've given is achieving a degree of period accuracy...I'm aiming to put this dress in the very early 1780s when there was a brief rage for things purple. The profile of period skirts was pretty full, but Robe Anglaises were not commonly worn with panniers, so far as I can see. I fit the skirt with a bum roll--got a nice full period back look, but that didn't give much side fullness. So, in an experiment, I put my corded petticoat on over the bum roll. That gave it a really nice full look. I don't know if corded petticoats were ever used--has anyone ever heard of this?

BTW--the jacket is an old one from the closet--I noticed the ribbon coordinated, so yay, I scored another outfit! This top is super light, so it might be just the thing to wear if we decide to dress out some night.

I can't say how much fun I've had getting back into hand sewing! However, today I'm going to tune up my featherweight. No, I'm not totally down on machine sewing!

BTW--I notice that almost nobody is posting on LJ of late. I've noticed some folk posting issues with DOS problems on Facebook last winter--is that the reason for the exodus? Is the community moving elsewhere? I've seen some folks reposting on Blogger. Is there any reason? I find reposting such a PITA--and I have found the Blogger interface a clunky substitute for Wordpress, without the community benefits of LJ. However, maybe there's some kind of new community feature there that I've missed? Anyone have any thoughts?