Florentine at work



So earlier this month, I was able to help out a few friends at the Cameron Park Renaissance Fair.  Their guild was playing the court of King Henry and Queen Katherine of Aragon.  As I did not have completely appropriate garb available, I was graciously allowed to wear my Florentine dress to serve the King’s household.  I did not get photos of day one, but day two I opened the bodice up and covered my bodies with a bid of fabric that matched the forepart.

As you can see, I was able to re-hem the skirts and make the lower sleeves.  This experience has made me want to make a proper kirtle for this era play.

Me! Holding a hawk!

Me! Holding a hawk! Photo by Lauren Coats

1902 Alameda

When I think Edwardian I think Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables.  Every summer on the first weekend of August PEERS holds a free picnic dance.  I don’t usually do much dancing but visiting in costume is always fun!  I’m very lucky that my friend Liesl was able to make me an outfit – I don’t sew this era much and with the move/divorce stressing me out I wasn’t up to learning new techniques.  Liesl was also generous enough to lend me her boater so I did get to do a bit of sewing to add the coordinating bands and the cockade.  After seeing the dress in a fitting, my daughter said I looked like an Edwardian version of Captain America – thus the cockade in the shield colors with a star in the center.

Here is the outfit in action:

Jennifer Edwardian


P.S. – I can’t thank Liesl enough!  I got loads of lovely compliments!  I can’t wait to wear it again!

Life happens

So about the time I was getting ready to migrate over to this blog, LIFE interrupted in a very big way.  I am (almost) at the end of getting divorced, selling the home and starting over.  Its been a roller coaster of emotions and because of the showings I had to pack most of my sewing away.  I’ll try to post some photos of the little projects I worked on over the winter and spring. Honestly, I won’t be moving until October-ish so it may be a little while before I get back on track.

American Duchess Give-Away

The American Duchess is having an Advent Calendar giveaway.  You probably know all about it, but if you don’t go here to the American Duchess website for some more info!

The Devonshires

You can’t see them, but I wore the
 Devonshires first to this 18th Century picnic…
photo by Marianme

American Duchess has made a name for her company by creating historical reproduction shoes that are affordable.  Yes, they run in the $100 range, but they are comfortable and well made and therefore VERY worth it.  I’ve three pairs now and love them all!

Tavistocks galore at the GBACG Tissot Picnic!
The Hartfields on a test run!

Accessorizing Head-to-Toe – November’s Challenge – Fans

The Accessory:  I made a fan for the Queen of Hearts dress.  

Historical Period:  I went for the paddle type fans used in the Elizabethan era
Outfit It Accessorizes:  Queen of Hearts dress
Materials Used:  Velvet, cardboard, ribbon and cording
Techniques Used:  mostly cut out and glued (and a wee bit of sawing)…. some sewing of the velvet to encase the cardboard and attach the cording.

Here you can see the slot I cut out of the end of the dowel.

I cut a slit out of one cardboard heart to fit in the dowel and then glued another heart onto each side to encase the dowel.

HSF #10 – Literature and HSF #22 Masquerade -Fancy Dress Queen of Hearts

As you can see I’m not terribly worried about doing challenges early (although cannot start them before they are announced) or late.  I simply want them all done so as to keep my creative juices flowing and learn some new skills.  I’m also horribly late on blogging about some of them because I have been very busy.

So close to being done.  I eventually spaced out the hearts on the sash more.

This dress was created to be part of the Dickens Fair Alice in Wonderland cast.  As you can see it is a Queen of Hearts dress.  I worked hard to combine a sense of puled from the attic trunks and freshly put together.

The bodice is actually an Elizabethan bodice from a costume I bought from friend. The ruffle and the sleeves are from the skirt fabric of the same dress.  The black cotton velvet skirt and oversleeves are part fabric purchased from a friends de-stash.  The gold fringe was originally left over from the bustle dress (Oh good lord, I haven’t shown you all photos of THAT either…) but I was lucky to be able to source more since I would be needing it.

Long story shortened:

Lots of pins were used…

I started by dying 1/2 inch twill tape black and cutting out and hemming the knife pleated ruffle for the hem of the skirt.  I originally calculated that I would use 3 panels of the black velvet and ended up having to add another panel.  This meant that the red ruffle was 522 inches long and I made it 8 inches deep.  I feretted the hem 18th Century style so the black twill would peak out at the bottom.  Then I pleated the ruffle onto one inch twill tape so it would be removable if necessary.

I used the same treatment for the Black velvet skirt, except that I used white one inch twill to ferret the hem there it was supposed to give a nice pop at the transition – but it wasn’t as dramatic as I had hoped. The skirt is cartridged pleated into a grosgrain waistband (which I may replace).

I added a peplum to the bodice to make it more Victorian looking and add two sets of sleeves and poof! The sash was a trial because I wanted to match/compliment the fringe that I had already added to the dress so I ended up using a brushed twill and the wrong side of gold lamé to make the sash.  I added more fringe to the ends of the sash and stiched it together in such a way that I have one wee little pocket to hold my gate pass and a couple of bills since I don’t carry a bag (what queen does?) and voilà! A fancy Fancy Dress Queen of Hearts!

The Challenge: Literature & Masquerade

Fabric: cotton Velvet (black and red), red silk taffeta, and white silk, brushed twill and some lamé
Pattern: none… o.O, I drafted everything free hand or used a toile I had on hand…
Year: 1850-1860 Fancy Dress
Notions: LOTS of thread, hooks & eyes, twill tape, dye,grosgrain ribbon, three tone Italian tassel fringe… and a lot of patience
How historically accurate is it? I think its pretty good.  The fabrics are correct (except maybe the lamé – which could probably substitute for cloth of gold – but since I’m using the wrong side it makes no never-mind except that it wiggles when you sew… :()
Hours to complete:I don’t think I want to add it up.  I’ve been working at it since early October (evenings and weekends and put the finishing touches on by the second weekend of Fair.   I’d say a good starting estimate is 2-3 40 hour weeks (lots and lots of hand sewing). I’ve a couple of things left to tweak, but it is wearable and beautiful.
First worn: Dickens Fair November 2013
Total cost: somewhere between $400 and $500 for materials, labor?  80 to 120 hours – so a final cost is $1,200 to $2,900 depending on the hourly rate at which I pay myself (mentally that is and NOT including accessories)…. o.O

*** I PROMISE to add photos of me IN the dress and a post about the Bustle Gown is forthcoming… Just look for me on Facebook if you don’t want to be patient.

Costume Build List (Part Deux)

Also known as The UnEnding List of Things to Do, But Make Me Happy So They Are Worth It.



  • Corded Petticoats (3? – one for each of the girls) – down to two!!!
  • Queen of Hearts (Two parts – repair one and make another)
  • Alice Cape – blue with white stripes (note to self – purchase 1′ white grosgrain – ~20-30 yards) I axed the trim but it has three beautiful pineapple frogs
  • Alice muff – white rabbit fur of course source at a thrift shop on the way home from CosCo
  • Sash for green stripe regency dress
  • overdress (regency)
  • pelisse
  • curacao
  • Pink Plaid
  • Green Kirtle
  • Chemise -Regency long sleeve
  • 30’s Dress (I will commission this one, but I have fabric..)
  • 50’s Dress (I commissioned it due to time constraints.)
  • Florentine (not yet finished, but technically wearable)
  • Quilted Petticoat
  • Round Gown
  • Pantalettes (Alice, QoH, and a spare one or two)
  • Pirate shirt (Victoria*)
  • Blue Kirtle (Victoria)
  • Breeches (Charlie)
  • Coat (Charlie) – Actually he should have a couple Victorian, Revolutionary, and Regency
  • Kana (Victoria)
  • Belle Steampunk (Victoria*)
  • Tricorns (cuz pirates amirite?)
  • Blue Dress (Meghan*)
  • Pantalettes (Meghan*)
  • dino corset (Meghan – tudor style*)
  • rapunzel corset (Meghan – 18th century style*)
  • steampunk corset (Meghan – underbust*)
Its not much right?  

Progess on Dickens costumes

Well, there hasn’t bee a lot of it…  my arthritis is kicking in horribly… nevertheless, I was able to finish the ruffs for Punch and Judy.

Judy only requires a mob cap with a red ribbon, a ruff, a pinafore apron, and a baby.  So I just need to make up a baby and find a ribbon.

Punch will be more difficult, but I’m working on it slowly.  I’ve gathered the materials and just need to figure out sizing….  Does anyone’s little boy want to play Punch?

QoH – I’ve cut out the skirt of the bodice and patterned the oversleeves.  I need to mock up the under-sleeves to make sure they fit the armscye.

The ruff – really a ruffle mostly handstitched and ties on so it is adjustable.

October’s Accessory Challenge

I’ve been a busy girl and while I had grand plans to make a reticule, I simply did not have the time.  So I am submitting my huswife as my “Bags & Purses” item for this month’s challenge.  I really do try to carry period handiwork with me when I do events, so it will come in handy.

You can read about the making of it here. 

I’ve collected some examples on my Pinterest Accessories! board.

Sewing for me…

Here is the beginnings of my banner hanging in my sewing room.

Every 20 days I tend a flame for Brighid.  Brighid is one of the old Celtic gods that became a Catholic Saint and priestesses/nuns/devotees have been tending her flame for centuries.  While she is more commonly known for being the patroness of healing, poetry, and smithcraft; she is also associated with the arts and crafts. Usually I get a lot of my harder sewing done during that 24 hours, this time due to the inordinate amount of stress I have been experiencing, I wanted to work on some small things that I’ve been putting off for a while because – well – they aren’t costumes and I didn’t need them for an event.

So I always save any left over fabric from projects.  Some folks make quilts out of their scraps.  I make banners.  Its a relatively new thing for me, but I’m liking it.  I use left over ruffles and other bits to show off what I’ve made…

I also took the time to make myself a huswife (aka a sewing kit).  I made mine so it holds specific tools and keeps them together.   As you can see it wraps up neatly and can fit into my purse if needed.  It holds some more modern tools like a seam ripper, pencil, scissors and other items.  The pockets can hold buttons and thread while the little flap at the center top can hold pins and needles.  This one is fairly simple, I got the idea from Jane Austen’s Sewing Box, which a good friend gave me for Christmas.  Then I kept and eye out on Pinterest for other versions until I figured out what I wanted.  Then it was a matter of having time to make it.  
I’m glad I did.  A lot was sewn by hand for both projects. I was able to work away a lot of anger and stress.  While its still not all gone, that’s why I keep sewing!

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