Monday, July 17, 2017

200 Years of Jane Austen

I have absolutely no idea why I am writing this post — or more specifically, how. I have various things to get done tonight, a moderately full schedule the next three days, and I am going on a holiday from early Friday morning (I mean very early) until the end of July. But I suppose how is answered by the why.
The why is Jane Austen. And I make time for Jane Austen.

Jane Austen is my angel.*

Tomorrow is the two hundred year anniversary of her death. If you've read more than a couple posts on this blog you will no doubt be aware of the fact than I am a devotee of Miss Austen. So in remembrance of this dear lady I am posting some of my favorite quotes. Also, I encourage you to read this page on the Jane Austen Society of North America's website, filled with tributes to Jane.

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. (Emma) Note: Jane Austen is so much in my blood that I say this quote often to myself but only recently realized she wrote it!

The one all of my family will recognize: Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as quickly as I can... (Mansfield Park)


Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others. (Sense and Sensibility)


The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerable stupid. (Northanger Abbey)

[She was] sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of everything, that a ball was indeed delightful. (Mansfield Park)


A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment. (Pride and Prejudice)

Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! Worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again and I will leave the room this moment. (Sense and Sensibility)


I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! (Pride and Prejudice)


The best description of certain parties: Too numerous for intimacy, too small for variety. (Persuasion)

“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement — people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.” (Northanger Abbey)


A fondness for reading, properly directed, must be an education in itself. (Mansfield Park)


And of course: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man of fortune must be in want of a wife. (Pride and Prejudice)

She will never be forgotten. 

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*If you didn't get the joke, you obviously need to watch Bleak House. Not Jane Austen (Dickens) but still amazing. Review coming soon!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Literary Outline of My Days

Well, readers, as of the end of May, I have reached the age that Fanny Price is through the majority of Mansfield Park (and have just finished a reread of that delicious novel). I stand at the brink of prospects such as Anne Shirley faces at the end of Anne of Green Gables, though she chose to give them up.

Laura Ingalls became a teacher at 16; I can't imagine doing that, but now I can say that at 18 I was a recess teacher. For three days I led fifty homeschooled 3-13 -year-olds (not all at once!) in obstacle courses and relay races. Crazy, but also a good experience. I went into it thinking, I know preschoolers! I can handle these! (I teach Sunday school for 3-5-year-olds at my church). Um... There is a big difference between ten of those kiddos and twenty. Plus no walls to contain them in, haha. I still love kids (ahem, I'm getting a degree in Elementary Education so I'd better) but I now know that I know nothing. It was also a very strange feeling to realize I was completely in charge and that I was the "adult" who legally had to be there. Odd, very odd.

I just finished reading Little Dorrit. Oscar Wilde says that "If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, then there is no use in reading it at all." This is certainly true of LD. It is my new favorite Charles Dickens book. I now very much want to watch the BBC version of it, and I think that I shall have little trouble in getting my middle sister to watch it with me because this fellow is in it:

THE Mr. Darcy in her eyes.

Sophie Hatter would be aghast at the state of my house, as I have not been pursuing her sham career at'all this last month. I hope we are a little cleaner than the castle, but studying for tests and preparing for parties is not at all conducive towards neat habits.

have been practicing Sherlock Holmes' instrument, and to my great delight my teacher has at last given me a book on reading music for the violin.

And most exciting, I have at last taken up the [figurative] blue notebook of Jane Penderwick. No snippets yet as I'm still trying to keep the motivation for the final chapter.

Alas, I could find no literary reference to tell of perhaps the most momentous event, viz. my high school graduation. It is a strange feeling to be viewing high school as a past thing. I've still been doing 'school work' but it's not stuff that's necessary for high school (i.e., CLEP tests and history books that I enjoy). For those still in high school or below, graduation seems eons away, but all of the sudden it comes way faster than you expected.

Theoretically summer brings more time for reading. Of course one is always busier than one expects, but I hope you all have time to fit in at least a little something now and then. Happy reading!
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Monday, May 1, 2017

What, I write?

Those who have only just started following this blog may not be aware — and those who have followed long may have forgotten — that I call myself a writer. I say that I'm currently retelling the King Arthur legends. What's more accurate is that I was retelling them and stopped. I haven't written since the first few weeks of January; before that, I cannot say. Well, this writer misses her Arthur and I hope that eventually the writing that is not quite as fun will be over, so that I can pursue this story again.
There have been many times in my life where writing has seemed like an indulgence. A waste of time. If I'm not writing something that will directly help someone (i.e., a devotional book) then I am being selfish. I could be spending that time either working on my school, cleaning the house, or actually helping someone.
Recently, I've come to realize that my abilities, meagre as they may be, are a gift from God. I don't mean to say that I was just told that I've been ordained to be a writer and from now on I'm pursuing writing over everything else. But I have realized that a thing of beauty, even if it never directly says the word "God" is just as likely — perhaps more — to touch those who need it. And if I have been given some ability to create such a thing, then I do have a duty to work at it.
So! All that to say, that I am once again trying to get back to writing and actually FINISH this thing. Most of my school will be over in early May. Although I do hope to get a part time job this summer, I shall have a great deal more time that I intend to share with Arthur.

In anticipation of this, I am doing a Beautiful People questionnaire (from May 2015) for Owain.

Does he get nightmares? If so, why or what of?
Owain is a hard worker and is always very tired when he lays down to sleep. He doesn't usually have dreams — or at least doesn't remember them — but he has had some nightmares about his uncle's drunken rages.

What is his biggest guilty pleasure or secret shame?
Owain almost hates his uncle, but he is also ashamed of this. He was brought up to regard family ties as very important and, despite his uncle's behavior he feel that he ought to care for him in some small way, or at least pity him.

Is he easily persuaded or does he need more proof? 
Owain is definitely more easily persuaded; however, I would say that this is more because he is desperate than due to naiveté.

Does he suffer from any phobias? Does it affect his life in a big way?
Owain is much too sensible (or has too little time) to have a serious phobia.

What does he consider his "Achilles' heel?"
Morvydd, his sister, you might say is his Achilles' heel. She is a cowed, nervous person (due to said uncle) and he is very protective of her.

How does he handle a crisis?
Owain is not the sort of person to take charge over everyone in a crisis. Neither is he paralyzed. He generally realizes pretty quickly what he can/should do, and does it quietly and quickly.

Does he have a temper?
No. He can definitely get very angry, but not easily.

What are his core values and/or religious beliefs?
Owain is nominally Christian. He has a strong sense of justice and values protecting the weak.

I think that Owain looks rather like Dominic Muir.

What things does he value most in life?
It may sound cheesy, but his friends/family. When once he becomes attached to someone he has strong affections.

What is one major event that helped shape who he is?
His father's accident and eventual death definitely affected his life; because of the former, he was apprenticed to a different miller, rather than learning at home. Because of the latter he is now stuck with his uncle. But as to what shaped him as a person: his father was not perfect but he always treated women and the elderly with respect. Because of that, Owain finds these things very important and is put off by people who don't do likewise.

Well! I certainly enjoyed getting to understand Owain a little better. Now I feel sentimental and close to my medieval friends again. To writing I go!*
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*I do not mean this literally. I mean it in a... figurative sense. In a vague kind of way. In a very, very, general way. With an assumed "At some point" at the beginning of the sentence... Anyhow!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Slightly Interesting Facts About Me

Evangeline at Over the Hills wrote some fun tag questions and invited participation. So therefore, I am answering them.

Do you have any family heirlooms?
I'm sure there are more general family things, but I personally own two aprons which were my great-grandmother's, and a small silver (plated, presumably) tray with brush, that also belonged to her.

Opinion on letter writing?
I adore writing letters and getting them. Unfortunately, doing the first usually doesn't ensure the second.

Do you prefer tea, coffee, or cocoa?
Tea, hands down. I now have a cabinet in the kitchen which is exclusively designated to be my tea cabinet. Side note: When I start to run low on English Breakfast Tea, and say "I need to buy tea" my mother invariably [and somewhat truthfully] says "you have lots of tea!" Yes, but not tea. However, she did thoughtfully buy me some the other day when I was out. I do enjoy hot chocolate in the winter, but not coffee.

What's your favorite children's story?
Obviously I have a great many, but the one which first pops into mind is Elizabeth Isele's The Frog Princess.
This is the first book I can remember loving. Every time I went to the library I went over to the shelf it was on and pulled it out. I don't know how young I was when I first saw it, but I know that I couldn't read yet, because I recognized it by the color of the spine. Years later I thought about this book and found the library had gotten rid of it (!!). Since I had no idea who had written it, it took me some time but eventually I found it on the internet.

There are many variations on the frog princess/frog prince story, but I've never come across one like this. Elizabeth Isele adapted it from a Russian tale. I still love the Russian setting and the illustrations.

What movie or period drama ending really frustrated you? And how would you change it?
Hm, nothing that was "really frustrating" comes to mind, because if the ending of a movie was "really frustrating" I probably didn't like the rest of the movie. And therefore changing the ending wouldn't help. Such as Somewhere in Time; a happy ending (or a tragic, rather than stupid ending) would have improved it only slightly. Then there's movies like Fiddler on the Roof. I could wish it ended happier, but any different would have been unrealistic. I used to think My Fair Lady would be perfect if Harold Hill acted a little more humbly in the last scene, but now I'm not sure if they should end up together. So, really, I don't know that I have any movies where a) only the ending frustrated me and b) a change would actually be better.

Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
In ten years I'll be almost twenty-eight (!). I see myself teaching small children in another country. I hope to be married with a few children, but that's in God's hands.

What makes you nostalgic?
Well, a lot of things do, but nothing very interesting, I'm afraid. Reading old letters and journals. There is a certain smell that sometimes comes on me, that I can't remember when I'm not smelling it and can never identify what it reminds me of.

If you had to describe yourself as an animal, what would it be?
I've had other people tell me I'm like a cat, I think because I quietly appear places and am not as outgoing as, say, a dog. However, I've often thought of myself as a mountain goat. I enjoy clambering around on rocks and hills and have good balance. Mountain goats may not be fast but they are sure-footed and hearty.

If a loved one was to serenade you, what song would you most like them to sing?

Need I say more? My sister and I both swoon over this.

If you could change your name to anything, what would your new name be?
I wouldn't change my name. I am quite satisfied with it. If I had to, I think I'd go with Elizabeth. I like old-fashioned names and that's one that has a lot of nickname options. (Side note: I went and looked at a list of baby names to refresh my memory on names that I like, and, boy, some of the names I previously liked are so strange to me now. Cessair? Fawn? Really?)

What's your favorite biscuit to dunk?
Dunking biscuits in coffee might be different, but in tea, dunking = crumbs in tea. I don't like crumbs in my tea.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Regency Morning Caps

This is probably the easiest project I have done for this play. These caps can easily be done in an afternoon. The tutorial is so simple that I almost wouldn't post it, except that I have been unable to find any similar tutorials online, and therefore people don't know just how easy it is. Being a new (since Christmas) member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (!!!), I attended a sewing party held in my region a few months ago. In addition to finishing my spencer and gushing over Colin Firth together, the kind lady hosting showed me a cap she had made and told me how she had done it. Following her instructions I made two. This tutorial shows how I made Lady Middleton's, patterned off of the cap of Jane Austen herself.

Charlotte wears a similar cap in the real 1995 Pride and Prejudice, made of all one kind of material. I made Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Ferrars caps entirely of lace, like hers.

Fabric circle with diameter of 17 inches
Strip of the same fabric 2" by 60" (the ruffle piece)
Coordinating or matching fabric strip 2" wide (the head band; see length below)
Needle and thread/sewing machine, pins

Measure around the crown of your head. Add 1 1/2 inches (in the hat shown, the green fabric is 26.5 inches long). This is how long your coordinating (or matching) fabric needs to be. This is your band.

Run two lines of gathering stitches (low tension and large stitches on a machine) along the edge of the fabric circle. The first line of stitches should be 1/2-5/8 inches from the edge, the second line 1/2-5/8 inches from the first line. N.B. one line of stitches will work as well, but I find doing two lines helps it gather more easily and evenly.
Double line of gathering stitches
Gather the circle to the band and pin right sides together as shown.

 Sew together.
Turn one edge of the ruffle piece over 1/4 inch and hem. Run a gathering stick along the other edge. Pin to the band, right sides together, as shown. Sew together. If the ruffle is wanting to stick up, lightly iron along the band.

Well, here ends the last of my Regency sewing posts (at least the ones pertaining to the play; now that I'll be wandering around the house wondering what to do I'm thinking of adding embroidery to the green dress shown above, and if so I will certainly give before and after pictures). Sense and Sensibility performed for the last time two days ago. This was my last performance with my homeschool drama group, too, as I graduate this spring. I am very excited to be going to the university in my home town this fall, as I know several good friends there and I'm glad I can continue to live at home. But 'tis bittersweet, too.
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Regency Tail Coats: The Back

I have just finished the seventh and last coat and thought I'd share some pictures of how some of them ended up; specifically, what I ended up doing with the back of them.
First, the finished coat I showed in the first post.
John Dashwood's coat was rather big on him. In the process of my research, I stumbled across this picture.
To me it looked kind of like there was just darts in the back, so to get it to fit better I added curved darts.

Mrs. Jennings' footman's coat was also too big for him, so I added darts to that as well. To both coats I added buttons. In the green livery I cut and hemmed a slit, but didn't bother to do so on Dashwood's.

Adding the gold cord to this coat was my final sewing project. I am quite pleased with the effect of the trim and the double breasted gold buttons.

The man playing Willoughby is of a large stature and I was afraid a normal suit jacket would look wrong on him. (Since tail coats were longer than our usual suit coat.) His jacket being one of the ones I cut straight across, I attached the two pieces cut off the front, onto the back, as shown.

It doesn't look good close up, but from the stage I hope it will look fine. I added two buttons to the back of this coat as well, but left the jackets belonging to Mr. Palmer, Edward, and Brandon plain.
I must say, I'm rather nervous about the costumes right now. If these coats look terrible it will be entirely my fault. If people don't understand the script, that'll be my fault too. I feel a great deal of pressure as the performance date approaches (a week from Thursday...!).

A Note on Cravats:
As I knew I would be making cravats for six gentlemen, I originally thought to write a post on the subject. However, once I had done a bit of research, the making and tying of a cravat was so easy that an entire separate post would be inane. I will just mention a few quick points:
  • To make my cravats, I simply cut a 10x80 piece of white cotton, hemmed it, and starched it. (Some cravats were triangular, I believe, but I decided to go with a rectangle.) The starch is very important.
  • This post was extremely helpful. Not only is it cool to see a modern guy who appreciates history and enjoys wearing cravats, at the bottom of the post you will find instructions for two knots.
  • Cravats in the Regency period were always white, to the best of my knowledge (at least, at evening events). In the late 1820s on, other colors began to be used as well. 
  • In addition to cravats and stocks, there was a thing called a jabot, which is basically a frill on a string (see here), which we so often admire on the amazing Sir Percy.

Although technically, I believe jabots were going out of fashion in the Regency era, I have decided to attach a lace ruffle to Robert Ferrar's cravat, as he is a fop and I hope it will emphasize this. As his actor also plays Mr. Palmer, to differentiate, I deviate from history again by making a black cravat for Mr. P. And, what pains me most, I believe he will be wearing a mustache as Robert. Sigh.

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Regency Bonnets (In Which I Announced My Current Career)

Well, it ends up I am not sewing a Regency dress after all, but I have acquired some more projects for various ladies in Sense. In short, I have become a milliner. Apparently my great-great grandmother owned a hat shop, which makes me feel curiously connected to her.
Lady Middleton shall be wearing a Regency turban for the ball, which I shall certainly post pictures of!
I am making two lace morning caps. I have made some mock ups, and will soon be sharing a step-by-step post on the making of the real one. For this post, however, I am sharing my most exciting project:

Straw hat
Double bias tape
88"-90" of two inch ribbon, OR four-inch-wide strip of fabric 88-90 inches long.
White cotton fabric, about 19.25 inches by 20.5 inches
Decorative trim, fake flowers, more ribbons, etc. if desired

1. The Base. Cut the hat, as shown.

Next, open the bias tape and cover the edges of the hat. Sew on.

2. For Lack of Ribbon.
If you're using ribbon for your ties, skip this step. If using a strip of fabric, turn both of the long edges over about 1/4 inch and iron. Fold the strip in half lengthwise and iron. Sew along the edge so that the strip is closed. N.B. I bought 1/4 yard of 44" wide fabric and cut out two four inch wide strips, followed these steps and then sewed their ends together.
Hem the short edges of the fabric. You should now have a strip of fabric about two inches wide by 88 inches long, with no raw edges showing.

3. The Ties. 
Pin the strip of fabric onto the hat as shown. Sew to the hat. I just sewed along one long edge and both short edges and that was sturdy enough.

4. The Lining. 
Take the white cotton fabric and pin it along the top of the bonnet (from just below one point to just past the other point), folding the raw edge under. Of course, you're attaching a square edge to a round edge, so closer to the points, a lot is folded under. (My fabric was thin enough to be slightly sheer, so you can notice in the second picture below how much is folded under.) Sew along that edge.

Run a gathering stitch along the fabric at the edge of the crown of the hat, as shown above. This just helps it sit more nicely inside the hat. (Your line of stitches should be a semicircle from edge to edge.)
As you can see in the picture above, this leaves rather a lot of excess material at the bottom of the hat. In the picture below, I pushed the fabric inside the hat so that it was basically flat against the inside of the crown. Then, I snipped off the piece that I am holding in the picture below.

After snipping that bit off, I turned the edge under, kind of in pleats, as you can see in the next two pictures.

Sew along this edge. The lining should now be fully attached.

5. The Fun Stuff.
To cover up any not-so-straight lining or bias tape stitches, I added a decorative trim all along the inside of the hat.
From this point, what you do with the bonnet is up to you! I chose to go with a simple bow made of the same material as my ties, as seen in the first picture, but you could add flowers, more ribbons, etc.

A note on hat shape:
My straw hat was off the very stiff, flat variety. When I first put it on, I could tie it into proper shape but the ties then choked me. ; ) If you have a head form, you can steam it and reshape it, but alas I have no such thing. Since I just wanted the sides to curl in more, at some point it occurred to me that a clothes pin would do. I had it pinned like this for just over a week. Twice throughout that time I dampened the brim lightly with hot water. I found this to be quite successful.

Clothes pin: creative modern hat shaping technique!

The effect of the clothes pin after a week or so. Before this the hat was completely flat, now it curves on its own.

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