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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Friday, February 24, 2017

Book Review: The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour
Or, the Purloined Coronation Regalia

Although I'm not talking about sewing, I am continuing the Regency theme by reviewing the sequel to Sorcery and Cecelia. I must say, I like books that have interesting subtitles. I love the Regency/magic combo. This book was in a journal format, and I like that almost as much as epistolary.
But I am sorry to say, this book disappointed me, in several ways.
  • First off, I was happy with the lack of uncomfortable content in the previous book. There was nothing terrible in this book, but there were several things that made me feel uncomfortable. A reference was made to "fallen women," to a girl having "no reputation left to lose," and a veiled reference to prostitution which would likely go over the heads of younger girls. The two worst spots were with Kate and her husband Thomas. First, a scene in which Kate, Cecy and Kate's mother-in-law are chatting, the evening after their wedding. The mother-in-law says something like "you know what you're supposed to do, right" and Cecy replies something to the affect of "How can you live in the country and not know," while Kate says "My aunt explained it once." The book then says that the mother-in-law proceeded to give Kate a better explanation; later Thomas comes in and Kate feels awkward around him, before the scene closes. The second and worst part was when, later on, Thomas quotes part of the current wedding vows to Kate, "With my body, I thee worship," and adds "we'll have some of that later." I was not at all pleased by the authors insertion of this sort of thing into the book and almost stopped reading. Less bothersome in my opinion, but noteworthy, that there was one or two uses of d---n.
  • Honestly, I found Cecelia quite annoying in this book. At several points, her husband would scold her for doing something foolish, and she would reply with something like "But I didn't die" or "But nothing did happen." That's not the point, woman! Something might have happened and if you don't start behaving more sensibly, the next time something probably will. And I won't feel bad for you. She also seemed to find immorality in women (and the discomfort of men when the subject was brought up) frankly amusing. And when a man was murdered, she and Kate both seemed happy about it. Kate admitted to feeling bad about her cold-heartedness, but Cecy didn't think she need to.
  • I wasn't a big fan of Thomas, Kate's husband. He was supposed to be romantic but I thought he was just a little annoying and grumpy. Kate was okay. I did like James.
    Plus there was something about Cecy which reminded me of Lydia.

The plot was still interesting, and I have still started the third and last book. However, I cannot recommend it as enthusiastically as the previous one. 

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Spencer Jackets

As there is limited time for costume changes in the play (and limited dresses for the eleven girls involved), my twin and I were talking about how we give one dress a different look. Since we both love spencer jackets, that was an obvious thought. I had found a pattern several months back that I liked, but being a complete and utter cheapskate, was unwilling to pay $15 for one. My twin thought that it would be easy to just cut the bottom half off of a modern jacket, and sure enough, you can google tutorials for such a thing.
I bought a grey blazer (of a thin, completely-un-period 100% polyester material). I confess that when I get into a project, I just want to finish it, and I neglected to take pictures pre-chopping.
Converting a jacket into a spencer is quite easy — find one that has a top you like, try it on with your dress, and mark on the jacket where the waistline of the dress falls. Then add seam allowance!! I'm not sure if I neglected to do this, or simply failed to mark the waistline of my dress accurately, but when I had chopped and hemmed the jacket, I found that it was too short in the back. Happily, my twin suggested adding a ruffle, like this one:

I had saved the chopped off fabric, so I cut this in a semicircle, ran a gathering stitch along the flat edge, and played around with the look of the back until I was satisfied.

Ruffle pinned on; I also put darts in the back to help it fit me a bit better, as you can see by my bright white thread.

The back of the spencer; the white thread of the darts still show a little.
I then trimmed another piece from the leftover fabric, folded the edges over, and topstitched it onto the back. I like the idea of a jacket being authentic and hand sewn... but I figured its made out of a rather odd stretchy polyester anyhow, so being machine-sewed hardly makes a difference.

With an added band for a more finished look.
My favorite detail: the four cloth covered buttons of which I am quite proud.

If you have never tried taking a picture of your back, it is quite a difficult thing, I assure you.

Happy sewing!

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