Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Lounging Cap

Lounging or smoking caps for men were common "at home" attire during the Victorian period; they helped with keeping warm in homes without central heating and were a canvas for the lady of the house to display her needlework skills.

Lady's' magazines frequently included patterns for caps, often they showed the inspiration of the popular "oriental" influence.

Both velvet and wool are common as the base fabric, embellished with embroidery or braidwork. The colors were usually strong and contrasting, a spot of color in the overwhelming sea of black gentleman's garments during the period.

Linings were typically silk or polished cotton, often quilted.

I just finished this cap; it is black velvet with a paisley and trefoil design chain stitched in silk. It also has the obligatory tassel, attached to a crochet covered button.

This cap will be worn with a cotton lounging jacket in an eye-popping combination of purple, orange and gold - get out your sunglasses!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February Bead Journal Project

There are some real advantages to having a fantasy dressmaker:

It's just fine when she mixes time periods, she can use patterns in ways NOT intended by the creator and she isn't required to be concerned with period correct techniques.

This month, Madame Dressmaker (she really needs a better name - any suggestions?) decided to create a beaded belt.

She started with an elaborate Greek key design originally published by Peterson's Magazine in March 1862.
This pattern was not intended to be used for wearing apparel, it would have been used to create a border on a bit of fancy work to be displayed in the parlor.

I used galvanized size 11/0 seed beads in two colors and stitched three repeats of the pattern using square stitch, a bead weaving technique. The result is strong and flexible.

The belt is accented with just one half of an Edwardian era belt clasp. The other half is heavily tarnished, so this was a great way to display at least part of it.

A scrap of deep blue taffeta from my stash was the perfect complement. It is just roughly gathered and stitched down the middle to the 5"x7" base and the belting tacked in place - giving
the illusion of an intricate bodice.

I'm very pleased with the pattern, I can envision using it in many different ways, in jewelry, as part of an evening bag - or even a real belt for a period gown.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Like Squirrels

I know many people consider them vermin, or worse, but I just find them endlessly amusing - so curious, fearless and acrobatic.

Here's a linoleum print of a "Bushy Tailed Squirrel" that I recently purchased from artist, Melissa West :

He just makes me laugh!

This is a sight that annoys many people, but how can you not find this funny - my bird feeder has grown a tail!

And now it's gone...

I'll gladly keep them well supplied with seed, a small price to pay for the endless entertainment value.

Here's some new construction, started just this morning that I'll be keeping a close eye on:

And the builder, a soon to be momma squirrel:

This tree is right in front of my house, so perhaps we'll have more entertainers come spring!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Just a Little Sole - Part Eight - Finished Slippers

As promised, here are the finished slippers:

Please excuse my non-period stockings!

The slippers were a collaboration between my husband and I, my responsibility was the soles, while he created the uppers. They are based on a pattern from the June 1865 edition of Peterson's Magazine.

Here's the image which accompanied the instructions:

The original instructions call for the body of the slipper upper to be done in crochet, with the fluffy trim being knitted. While my husband crochets beautifully, he does not knit. So he improvised a crochet trim that is not as full as the above image, but is a nice complement nonetheless. I did insert elastic around the upper edges as was suggested in the directions - it helped immensely in keeping the slipper on my foot.

I am very pleased with the final product, they fit well, are warm and comfortable and kind of cute. I think.

These slippers have been nearly two years in progress, with most of the time involving research first and experimentation second. It was time well spent, as I now have a great pair of slippers and an increased knowledge of a somewhat obscure aspect of 19th century material culture.

So What Do You Think?

I have a pile of scraps I just can't bear to throw away, leftovers from our holiday cards.
There's a few good sized pieces, but they are predominately narrow strips. They've just been sitting there, taunting me to use them in some manner.
So I've just been playing around with them, this is what I've come up with:
I'm not sure exactly how to use them - cut them into ATC's? Mount them as is in a shadow box frame?
So what do you think?
Try again?
Give in and throw them away?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ice Bridge?

Not likely this year - it's just been too warm.

So what's the ice bridge?

It's freedom!
The ability to travel on and off the Island without needing to worry about a ferry or plane schedule, across just over three miles of ice formed between the Island and St. Ignace.

An ice bridge doesn't form every year, it's dependant on weather, current, snow cover, etc. And we never know have long it might remain; last year it disappeared completely in less than 24 hours.

There is a wonderful documentary, Ice Bridge - Mackinac Island's Hidden Season, that captures winter on the Island with some simply stunning images and includes a trip across the ice.

So why isn't there a bridge to Mackinaw City?
Because the Coast Guard does their best to keep a narrow shipping channel open going under the Mackinac Bridge.

These photos were taken this morning, it's easy to see the open water and bits of skim ice being broken by the ice cutter.

So currently, the only way off is to fly - ferry boats are still a distant dream!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just a Little Sole - Part Seven - Cork Cloth

" No. 13,286.—William Johnston, of Brooklyn, (E. D.) N. Y.— Improvement in Cork Sole Stuff.—Patent dated September 29, 1857.— This improvement is described by the inventor as follows : I construct the cork cloth of cotton muslin, silk, leather, or other suitable material, which material is stretched on a solid frame ; on the surface of the material is laid a priming of boiled oil, over which I sift a quantity of fine pulverized cork, and press it in with rollers before the oil is dry, and allow it to remain some time to dry. I then apply another coat of oil and sift another quantity of fine cork over it, which is pressed in as before, repeating this process until I obtain the substance required. The pulverized cork is made by grinding solid cork in a burr stone mill, or any other that will reduce it fine."

Cork cloth or lino cork is frequently referenced as being used in the construction of cork soles, but does anyone still produce it? And where might I find it?

Well I did manage to find it, and this is great example of following an obscure lead when doing research. I was searching for cork products and encountered an artisan creating purses from cork cloth. The cork cloth she was using was beautiful, but not the product I needed, but I ran a search using "cork cloth", which led me to a company that has been producing cork products since 1855!

Jelinek Cork Group (JCG) is over 150 years old. Today it is one of the oldest continually active cork companies in the world. It remains a privately owned, fifth generation family run company headquartered in Canada with subsidiary warehousing, office, and/or production facilities in various countries around the world. Jelinek Cork Group was founded in 1855 in the province of Bohemia within the former Austro-Hungarian Empire but known today as the Czech Republic. That area of the world was known then, as it is today, as the capital of world beer consumption. Cork stoppers were supplied by Jelinek to the leading breweries of the world when beer bottles were still sealed with natural corks. Distilleries and wineries quickly learned the advantages of using natural cork in sealing their own bottles and Jelinek Cork was soon also supplying these two industries, as well as the cosmetic, spice, and food markets with their stopper requirements.
During the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the communists in 1948, Jelinek Cork was nationalized and the Jelinek family escaped to Canada to find freedom and a new start. The new North American company was started and prospered throughout Canada and the USA and began expanding into other countries. In 1989, with the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the ousting of the communist regime, Jelinek Cork Group re-established a division of JCG in Eastern Europe and today also have facilities in both the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic.

The product that caught my eye was their lino cork:

"Fine grained cork roll material with natural linseed oil and rosin binder. Secured to natural jute backing. Color remains consistent throughout thickness of roll. Will not crack or break when bent around 2-3/4" (70mm) diameter cylinder. The material is washable, self-healing, and resistant to bacteria."

Sounds quite similar to William Johnston's patented procedure from 1857.

So I decided I was just going to have to order a roll.

Here's what it looks like:

When it was first unwrapped, there was quite a strong linseed oil odor, which has mostly dissipated with time. It is fairly easy to cut, using good strong scissors and a single roll will supply probably close to a dozen pairs of soles, making the product economical if you have need for that number or if several people go in together for the purchase.
I decided to cover my cork soles with canvas on the upper surface and an extremely heavy weight wool on the lower surface. The sides are approximately 1/4", which should work nicely to attach the uppers to the sole.

I should have a completely finished pair of slippers soon - pictures to follow!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


This is what it was meant to look like:

I call this design "Bonds of Love"; a cuff style bracelet based on a Victorian technique - split loom weaving. The solid base is formed and then "split" into smaller bands, which are braided on the loom and then brought back together into another solid base.

However, if you forget to add the extra warp threads needed for the "splits", you need to be creative:

So meet "Silver Ribbons":

I definitely couldn't make braids, but I could still make separate bands and even give them a bit of pierced work - not a bad fix!

This is a bit more modern than much of my work, almost industrial. Not steampunk, maybe "beadpunk"?

Sometimes making a mistake isn't all bad - if you can create a design that incorporates the error and makes it an asset.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Water Horse - Part Two

I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the wonderful comments - thank you all so much!

There were also many questions, so I thought I would give a bit more detail regarding construction.

The base of the piece is formed using the right angle weave technique, each square of the background "net" is approximately 1/8 of an inch square. The entire piece is 4"x 5 1/2", I will probably be adding a 1/2" fringe on the bottom edge, to bring it up to a finished size of 4" x 6" and also to add to the illusion of a bodice filler.

The piece is fairly flexible, due to the use of size 15/0 beads and as not all the background is filled. I've made bracelets using this technique, they are very comfortable to wear as they easily conform to the wrist.

I've toyed with the idea of creating something larger, more textile related - say a 1920's style dress - it would look fabulous, but would also be an incredible time commitment!

Again, thank you so much for all the kind comments!