Monday, April 30, 2012

The Bohemian Belle is going to Bohemia !

This past week has been insanely busy! My husband Bryan is now Dr. Bryan Nelsen, he got his PhD in Physics from the University of Pittsburgh Yesterday!

My husband the brand new Doctor on the big screen at Commencement

 Our families invaded  to celebrate this great event with us, which means I spent most of last week cleaning for company and preparing for his graduation party.
Man I'm exhausted!

With the in laws.

And now after 7 years of graduate school we are going on a well deserved trip to Europe ( courtesy of my parents). Thursday we'll head to Germany where I grew up to see family.

Das Vaterland.

 Then next week we will visit Prague for 3 days.

Prague, hope it really looks this pretty!

 We plan to meet up with one of of my husbands grad school friends who now works for Cern ( a huge European physics research laboratory) in Switzerland . So I'll be on Vacation with 2 Physics PhD's,I live the Big Bang Theory in real life!

Hi, my name is Penny, this really is my life!

Anyway, I'm excited! This Bohemian Belle finally get's to go to Bohemia! Well actually I have been to Prague before, 22 years ago when it was first possible to go to eastern Europe, and lord was it depressing. It looked like the second world war had just ended there! But I hear it's quite lovely now.
All this travel means I most likely won't be blogging for the next 3 weeks or so. But I do promise to have lots of pretty pictures to post when I come back. And then of course Dress U will be upon me very soon ,so lost of sewing and other wonderful  things will happen in late may and early June. 
So Auf Wiedersehen dear readers! See you after I come back from Bohemia!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finally Done.! The 1930's Tea Dress.

I finally finished the 1930's dress I have been messing with for the past 3 months.

 It wasn't that it was that difficult to make. But a combination of having some health issues that made me not feel in the mood for sewing, and not feeling that excited about this dress to begin with caused quite the delay in it's construction. The 1930's aren't exactly the fashion period I'm most interested in so I had to force myself to work on it when I really wanted to make pretty pretty regency stuff...
Anyway I have prevailed and finished the dress on Thursday!

The fashion fabric I used is rayon, a popular fabric of the period.

Pattern all pinned and ready to cut and yes those are my feet!

 It needed to be pinned down well before cutting because it moves a lot.  I cut the skirt and bodice front on the bias which gave it a nice drape. Once cut out I was a bit at a loss at how to mark the fabric since it is a very dark and has a busy print. Fabric maker did not show up at all on the fabric and neither did the carbon transfer paper I had on hand leave any visible marks. So I resorted to marking the darts and pleats by using the machine basing stitch to sew along the pattern markings with the patterns still attached . then I took the pattern off and marked along the stitching lines with a white chalk pencil. It worked pretty well but took forever to do.

Marking the pattern with chalk pencil

The mock up I sent to the customer fit her almost perfectly ,so the only change that needed to be done was to add some more fullness to the skirt back, because the customer felt the skirt was a bit clingy in the derriere. So all I did was add a couple of inches to the center seam of the skirt back and gathered it to the bodice.

The busy print kind of hides the butt gathers.

The original pattern had some rather bizarre glitches like the front and back skirt part being different lengths I had noticed this in the mock up but did not bother to correct it then.

Uneven hem, really who made this pattern?

 It was easy enough to fix this in the final garment by putting it on my dress form and marking the hem to be the same length all around.
So here's the finished garment.

The final product.

Just ignore the messy sewing room in the background...

I'm quite pleased with it even if it's not my style.  But since it's not for me that doesn't matter!  In retrospect this project was not too bad it all went together fairly well and the pattern ( despite the dress skirt length issue was fairly straight forward  and simple to follow though I would not recommend it to a beginner.
But the best thing about being done with this dress is that I can  finally move on the stuff for myself! So I started on my 1912 gown for the Titanic dinner at Dress U.

Here's a little sneak peak 

Dress train beading detail
I's just draped and pinned right now but you get the idea... well without the white sash.

Monday, April 16, 2012


I have to admit it I'm a procrastinator!
I finally started to work on that 1930's dress again.
This one remember?

Evil 1930's dress.

I have been meaning to work on it for weeks but somehow I just did not feel the vibe. Well really I still don't feel it, I have no love for the 30's so it's hard for me to want to work on it. But I have however been quite busy crafting and organizing and ordering stuff online for more crafting while avoiding the 30's dress.
Some of my recent work I have shared.already including the christening dress and the 1790's wig. So here;s some more random stuff I did while I was supposed to do actual commission work...
I trimmed some hats.

Spiffy black straw top hat, I think this may go nicely with a riding habit.

Satin crown and straw brim bonnet with net veil and  silk taffeta bows.

The second hat is really a re trim of a earlier hat that I never quite liked...

The original version. The veil was too long, crown was over large and I just hated the cheap poly satin ribbon.

Then I decorated some shoes

Cute little flats that match a hat I have in my stock. These aren't my size and will be for sale.

And finished the red shoes I posted about before

Fantastic red regency shoes baby!

When I wasn't crafting I was surfing the web.
I bought stuff on ebay.
Really lovely pierced and hand painted Spanish wood fans.
I got 12 hand painted wood fans from German ebay. These are from Spain so they are much cheaper to buy in Europe than here. Plan to sell them at Jane fest. Last year it was 95 degrees so fans sell like hot cakes!

And then I got more Sarees

So yummy!
More pretty pretty sarees!  I'm addicted to sarees!

I designed and ordered Jane Austen themed t shirts for selling at Jane fest in July.

Jane Austen, Reading is Sexy!

I would Rather be reading Jane Austen.

And I pinned some 2000 images on my pinterest. All of it regency related! Can you say obsessed?

All of this and more just trying to avoid what I was really supposed to do.
Oh well.... I am determined to finish the evil dress this week and will do a dress update next week. So till then why don't you go waste some time on pinterest?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Christening Clothes

 I took a short break from my costuming to make a christening outfit. My husbands sister gave birth to a little girl last week. I took this as the perfect opportunity to make a christening dress!

Short sleeved batise christening gown with matching bonnet.

I have been wanting to make one for a while, but none of my friends and family having babies as of late had their children baptized , and the gown my Charlotte wore for her christening was made by her grandmother. So now was my opportunity.
I'm not very religious myself but I love christening dresses they are so sweet and precious and are all that remains in modern culture of the adorable long white dresses infants wore from about the mid 18th century up until the first world war or so.

Infants gown ca 1815

The dress is made of lovely semi sheer cotton batiste,with tiny puff sleeves and an extra long skirt. It is trimmed with vintage lace from the stash and has antique lace applique.

Applique detail in bodice front.

 The Applique was cut from an Edwardian doily I got from a thrift store a while ago. It had several holes and tears so I didn't feels so bad about cutting it up. It is lovely soft lace the kind they don't seem to make anymore. In addition to the the lace I got some sweet hand tatted shamrocks form a very talented lady on ebay.

Adorable hand tatted shamrocks!

 I decided on the shamrocks cause my sister in laws husbands family is Irish, well half of it is Irish the other half is Korean, but we'll just ignore that for now. Besides what does one put on a Korean christening gown?  There are 4 rows of pintucks at the hem with a row of  shamrocks and lace flowers between them. I also put some dainty cotton lace trim over the stitching on the pintucks .

Pintucks at the hem with more applique and shamrocks.

 I really have been doing too much period sewing cause i feel the need to hide machine stitching even on modern garments!
Of course I also made a matching bonnet.

matching bonnet

Bonnet back detail with more lace Applique.

  With more lace and shamrocks and buttery soft silk bonnet ties.

Bonnet tie detail, vintage lace and  dainty shamrock.

 I'm very happy with how this turned out I think it's some of my best work. Now if I only had such passion about making that 1930's dress that needs to be finished!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Big and Crazy 1790's Hair! Or the Hedgehog Wig Turotial

I tried my hand at some wig styling last week. I was pretty pleased with the results of my first try,so here's a tutorial about how to get a decent 1790's hedgehog style from a cheap synthetic wig.

2 years ago I made myself a chemise a la reine  dress and have since experimented with the big 1790's hair to complete the look.
My chemise a la reine . With some fake curls peeking our from underneath the hat!
 My attempts with my own hair (with and without some supplemental hair from the black lady hair store),  turned out ok, but they took forever to create and wilted in the heat. Not to mention the pain of having to wash and brush out teased aqua netted frizzy curls afterwards.

my first attempt at a hedgehog hair do

 So since I'm lazy by nature and do not enjoy spending 4 hours on my hair at 6am, I decided I needed a wig to go with my 1790's outfits.

Now when I say they had big and crazy hair in the 1790's I'm not lying, just look at these gems of hairdressing art!

Queen Louise of Prussia with some fab big hair!
This lovely lady has less top poof but some serious mullet back length.
Can you say white girl Afro?!
After looking at hundreds of period images I decided I wanted to go for something along the lines of this style:.

Medium top poof and nice long flowing back curls.

And here's what I did....

I started out with a long wig that I got from on ebay. Spent only $9.50 and it's a really good quality synthetic wig. It is a light brown color that matches my natural hair pretty well.  These ship directly from china so you have to wait for about a month but it's totally worth it.

The wig in it's original state
The first thing i did was give the wig a haircut. since the style in the 1790's seemed to be a rather mullet like short in the from long in the back sort deal.

And after it's haircut
I lopped off generous amounts of hair in the front sloping down from the already existing bangs. I also took off some of the top layer of hair in the back to get it to poof up with the rest of the front and not be weighed down by  length.  I think I took off a bit too much in the back and would like to have a bit more long hair there if I tried  this again, so don't go over board.

Curling supplies, a comb, some mousse and strips of muslin is all you need!

Next I rag rolled thin narrow sections of the hair with the aid of some styling mousse. The mouse helps to keep things together while rolling, it doesn't give  much hold afterwards. If you have never rag curled hair here's a short you tube video on how
Rag curling is a bit tricky to get right but I chose this method because it is the method they used in period and produces a distinctly shaped  curl that is tighter than what you get from most modern rollers i have used, also it's cheap, all you need is some scrap material torn into strips.

All Rolled up!
I ran out of muslin after a while....

I used about 80 rags and spent over 2 hours rolling them up. I used bigger modern rollers on the long section in the back wanting looser curls but you could also just use bigger sections of hair with the rags as well.

Next I took my rolled up wig to the kitchen placed it in a large bowl and poured boiling water over it and let it sit for a while.

Give the wig a nice bath in boiling water.
This step is  very important, because the synthetic fiber in the wig  is not like natural hair that will curl when left to dry on a curler. It has to be melted into shape. The boiling water softens the synthetic fiber and will shape it into curls. Take the wig out of it's it bath after a couple of minutes and let it cool off. You can take the curlers out as soon as it's cool, the curl is now permanently set and will not relax unless dunked in hot water and brushed out .

After taking the curlers out, before styling.
looked like a clown mullet
You cans separate the curls with your fingers and brush it a bit, don't overdo the brushing.  This will frizz up the curl but will not relax it much. Which is a good thing since it means your hair do will not get droopy and unsightly after a couple of hours. I have not tried the wig in high heat and humidity yet but I think it will hold up well enough. perhaps some extra aqua net may be in order in extremely hot weather.
Here's the first result:

White girl Afro mullet!
Not  bad, but not good, and wow talk about frizz!
I  wasn't too happy with it. It looked a bit too round and high and the hair in the back was curled too tightly. I felt I looked more like Foxxy Cloepatra than lady Hamilton.

Good! Lady Hamilton, famed Regency Beauty.

Bad! Foxxy Cleopatra , Austin Powers Sidekick.

So I did some tugging and pulling and restyled the back curls by relaxing them with hot water, and added another sash. and this is the end result.

Much better, still frizzy but less poof!

I like the side view

And the relaxed curls in back.
Still not exactly what I had in mind. it's more late 1780's early 1790's in style, when hair was still extremely poofy. But for a first try it's really not bad at all and will go great with my chemise dress which is why I wanted a wig to begin with. So all is well!
Next time I will roll larger sections of hair to get  somewhat looser curls and I will leave more long hair in the back. I already purchased another wig from the same seller, this time in dark brown, and will try my hand at a somewhat later style.