June 28, 2015

Making of a Fairy Queen (Part II)

When I last posted about the grand fairy queen costume for GCV&M's newest summer camp that I have been steadily working on, it seemed like I had quite a ways to go before it was ready for flight.  (Read: Making of a Fairy Queen - Part I)  Then, ten days later, err three very late work nights, we had a fairy queen costume ready for takeoff!  

Picking up from where we left off last time...

Flower Petal & Leaf Skirt (continued):  With two tiers of petals already pinned, basted and stitched to the skirt base, it was time to add the third and last tier of leaves.  Then, I seamed the open side of the skirt together, and carefully overlapped and secured the extra petals to hide the back seam.  

Next step was to piece together a waistband.  A panel from the skirt fabric scraps was seamed and pressed together to serve as the inside half of the waistband, as well as a panel from left over green cotton (same fabric as binding on stomacher) for the outside.  Two rows of gathering stitches were run across the top of the skirt panels, breaking at each side seam.  

The skirt was then gathered evenly and stitched to the waistband.  To finish off the edge nicely, I ironed under half an inch of the green panel and evenly whip stitched it with a sturdy, white buttonhole twist to cover the zigzagged edges of the top petals.  Lastly, I ran a row of stitches an inch or so below the top edge to form a casing and inserted elastic cut to the proper measurement.  

As for decorations, I decided to go with the "less is more" approach and just added a gem to the end of each petal/leaf for extra sparkle!  And, voila, the completed fairy skirt!

Completed flower petal & leaf skirt, outside.

Completed skirt, inside.

Look, it makes a complete, upside-down flower!
Just proof of 100% twirliness!

Blouse:  I went for the simplified design and ended up loving the result!  I may or may not use this pattern again in the future for some modern "peasant" blouses...

Step one: draft pattern.  As you can see in the picture below, this was a multi-step, trial-and-error based method!  When happy, cut from the fashion fabric, which happened to be a natural colored cotton. 

Step two: narrow hem the sleeves and mark the placement for gathering.  I used twill tape for the elastic arm channels; stitch close to the edges on both sides of the casings.

Step three: insert elastic cut to the correct arm measurements and secure at both ends.  Join sleeves to front and back shirt pieces; seam and zigzag to finish.  Stitch from the edge of sleeve all the way under the arm to the bottom of the shirt on both sides.   

Step four:  Apply half-inch, homemade bias tape at the neckline and carefully top stitch to secure all of the layers.  Insert appropriate amount of elastic into neckline casing.

Step five: hem the bottom of the blouse to finish!

Add the embroidered corset...

Then the stomacher...

Along with the skirt...and you have a finished, grand fairy queen costume!  Whoohoo!  

I was able to schedule a final fitting with Alyssa, the fairy queen, last Thursday and everything fit beautifully!  What a fun project this has been!  News has spread that both fairy camp weeks have completely sold out, and that, if all goes well, there will be more opportunities for our young fairy enthusiasts next year!

 (Is it just me, or does it sort of resemble a cross between a folk costume and a ballet costume?)  Anyways, the costume looks so much better on Alyssa than on any dress form; so, hopefully, later this summer, I will be able to get a couple photos of the fairy queen, herself, in action!  

A very tired me, very late at night, posing with the completed costume: 

"When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies. And now when every new baby is born its first laugh becomes a fairy" 
~ James M. Barrie, Peter Pan

June 22, 2015

1812 Weekend at the Genesee Country Village

Hello readers, both new & faithful!  I apologize for letting this post sit so long in the queue!  Though, never fear, I've kept busy sewing & updating the pages on this blog.  I took advantage of the past few days I've had off to wrap up the finishing touches on the fairy queen costume (post pending) & to create a brand new page for my favorite sewing resources - make sure to check it out!  Also, I updated the theatrical experiences page as I am slowly filling in the costume links for each production with the corresponding "past project" posts.  Please continue to bear with me on the GCM&V internship page, I do plan to finish it, eventually...Anyways, enough rambling and onto the 1812 weekend recap!

The beautiful models of the Regency fashion show!
(Photograph courtesy of R. Bickford)

Two weekends ago now, I was scheduled to work during the museum's annual War of 1812 & Jane Austen Weekend - and it was awesome!  Regency fashion, reenactors: civilian and military, visiting shops of the finest quality, friends: longtime and new, and food, what more could anyone ask for?

That weekend has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember, and getting to work it for a second time was quite a pleasure!  In fact, I was having so much fun that the thought of taking pictures completely escaped my mind.  Though, all thanks to my good friend & weekend companion, Rhonda (the village dressmaker & seamstress extraordinaire that I keep mentioning), who diligently snapped photos all weekend, we have pictures!  Thank you so much for letting me share your pictures, Rhonda!  

Look, it's Lydia Fast of Regency bonnet making fame!
(Photograph courtesy of R. Bickford)

Two millineresses, perhaps discussing the latest trends in bonnet fashion.
 (Photograph courtesy of R. Bickford)

A seamstress hard at work!
(Photograph courtesy of R. Bickford)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Opening day of 1812 weekend!  The first sights I saw walking into the village square that morning were parts of a military encampment, shops lining the green & ladies strolling in their morning finery - I felt transported back to the 1810s.  Rhonda was the first friend I came across, and I'm pretty sure I squealed in delight after taking in her newly-made, Regency attire.  Wearing her gorgeous "little white Regency dress," a chemisette and cap of the finest cottons, and silk bonnet, she looked as if she had just stepped out of a fashion plate!

Rhonda & Sara conversing on the porch at MacKay.
(Photography courtesy of R. Bickford)

Although it was technically my day off, I was so happy to be one of the Hosmer Inn staff for the day!  I donned my working class attire - refashioned short gown, linen bodiced petticoat, pocket, check apron, a new, printed neckerchief, and my favorite quilted sunbonnet - just for the occasion.

Working class attire.
There, we served hot meals to reenactors and interpreters from 10 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon.  Refreshing lemonade, ham with fresh rhubarb sauce, baked beans, honey glazed parsnips, salmagundi, bread with cheese slices and bread pudding with plenty of plump raisins were on the menu.  Plenty of scotch marmalade and pickled condiments - Irish pickles, radish seed pods, beets and crab apples - were also available, yummy!

Inside Hosmer's Inn
(Photograph courtesy of R. Bickford)

Best of all, I got to work the day with my museum twin, Ariana (otherwise known as "Thing 2") AND meet and serve some of the loveliest people, including a new friend, Ava Stiles, and her family.  I also met (and fangirled over) Katie Lovely!

Later that evening, I was even able to take part in some of the after-hours festivities for the first time, thanks to my weekend companion, Rhonda!  There was a gathering on the MacKay porch and following punch party at Hosmers - so much fun!  We floated around, chatted with reenactors, and I even slipped behind the bar to visit with Ariana & Mary, my two museum and bartending buddies!

MacKay porch - someone must have said something funny
(Photography courtesy of R. Bickford)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The second day of 1812 weekend!  I was scheduled to work the outdoor games at Thomson Tavern, or "Officer Headquarters" for the weekend.  With all of the festivities happening on the square, I decided to move the games to the wide open space in the front yard of Brooks Grove Church.  The children and I were having fun with the stilts, hoops and graces, until the downpour in the early afternoon.

For the rest of the afternoon, it continued to rain, so, instead of playing outdoor games, I was tasked with various odd jobs and relieving interpreters for breaks as a "village wanderer."  I quickly discovered it was not a day for a dress with a train...During the worst of the storm, I ducked into the tailor shop for cover, and I am so happy that I did because, there, I met Kitty Calash and the three resident tailors (a whole lot of fangirling may or may not have happened)!  She was very generous with her time and expertise, explaining differences between tailoring and dressmaking techniques (thimbles, stitches, etc.) to another visitor, Rin, and I.  She even demonstrated an alternate, quicker method than the "catch stitch" for tacking the interlining of vest to the fashion fabric.

Outside Burnley & Trowbridge's popular tent.
(Photograph courtesy of R. Bickford)

Last, but not least, plenty of shopping occurred!  (As did my friends handing me their credit cards to shop for them...let's just say, they are now the proud owners of lots of pretty fabrics!)  One of my favorite shops, Burnley and Trowbridge, was there, as well as Regency Revisited - so I made sure to stock up!

A few of my recent purchases.

Also, thanks to Ava, I am now the proud owner of a Samantha McCarty dress - squee!!  Her 1812 Border Print Gown was always a favorite of mine.  As soon as the rain stopped, I immediately changed, and singing, dancing & silliness ensued with Ariana!

Posing for pictures.
(Photograph via facebook)

(Photograph via facebook)

Close up of the sari print.

All in all, a fabulous weekend, leaving me looking forward to the next time!  Thanks for reading :) 

June 17, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!

After an absolutely wonderful weekend spent at the Genesee Country Museum's annual 1812 event, it was such a splendid surprise to receive the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award from Jill of Elegant Homestead fame!

Official Award Rules: 
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site
  2. Put the Award logo on your blog.
  3. Answer the ten questions sent to you.
  4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer
  5. Nominate ten blogs.
Now, onto the blogging fun...

1)  Thank you so much, Jill!!
 It was such an honor to receive your nomination!  You're always so sweet and leave the kindest comments on my blog.  Plus, she shares the most brilliant creations over at Elegant Homesteads!

Elegant Homestead

Make sure to check her blog out for all things vintage, fashionable and crafty!  (Is this not just the cutest little Bluebird Bunting? ;)  Thanks again, Jill, for all of the encouragement!

2)  Done!  

3)  Jill's Questions: 

What was your favorite toy to play with growing up?
Does a little sister count?  Otherwise, I think it was a toss up between the play kitchen and the overflowing dress up box...the two of us spent hours days months years playing the most imaginative games together!  

If you could try any sport you’ve never played, what would it be?
I've always been interested in archery! 

In what kind of setting is your dream house located?
Honestly, it often changes from day to day.  Right now I'd say near the ocean - with large, glass, floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the most beautiful, endless seascape.  

What is the last color nail polish that you painted your toes?
The gaudiest of bright reds.

If you could change one thing about your blog that is beyond your control, what would it be?
Hmm, that's hard...perhaps receiving more feedback from readers?  It sounds silly, but I just smile whenever I hear from someone!  

What is something you would like to be better about doing by this time next year?
Without doubt, I would love to have more confidence and less fear of mistakes when it comes to sewing!

Have you ever help rescue a sick or injured animal?
I have a soft spot for all creatures, especially feline friends!  However, I can only think of two injured animals - a sparrow and a praying mantis - that my family and I were able to help.  

You wake up in the morning and open your eyes, what is the next thing you do?
Smile widely, try to remember the date, and then, proceed to launch a search mission for my glasses!

If you had to choose between never smiling again or always having a bad hair day, which would you choose?
Definitely the never-ending bad hair day - I'm smiling now just thinking about it!

If you could call one person right now and tell them you love them, who would you call?
My mom, hands down, the most supportive person in my life. 

4) My Nominations:  Some of my most favorite, inspirational bloggers out there!

Anna Bauersmith at If I Had My Own Blue Box

Gabriela at Pour La Victoire

Christina at The Laced Angel 

5) My Questions: 

Why did you begin blogging?

Who or what sparked your interest in costuming?

What do you find more exciting: the designing or the sewing process for your costumes? 

What is your all-time favorite period drama?

If you could travel anywhere in the world for a week (all expenses paid), where would you go?

If you could have a conversation with anyone from the past, who would you choose & what would you ask them?

Which do you prefer more: mornings or evenings?  Why? 

What accomplishment(s) in the past year made you the proudest?

What do you hope to accomplish this year?

What is on your sewing wish list? 

Have fun! 

June 10, 2015

DIY Cherry Blossom Tea Cakes

Now, for something a little different than the usual sewing...

After a day of working on the fairy queen's costume, fairies are on my mind and I thought that a recipe for these delightful tea cakes (aka cookies) would tie in well!  I could see these little blooms as the perfect addition to your next fairy tea party; which, reminds me, I've been invited to the fairy camp's end of the week tea party (yay!).

(Image via: http://flowers-kid.com/japanese-cherry-blossom-flower.htm)

While I don't usually have much luck experimenting in the kitchen (I'm someone who almost always has to follow a recipe), this time, I felt like I created something worthy of sharing:

These treats were baked in honor of a friend's birthday, who let me crash at her apartment after a very late night at the museum.  Earlier, when we were making the arrangements, she told me half-jokingly to bring treats for "rent."  I then asked her what she was in the mood for, and her response was simply something with almonds and cherries, always a great combination.

At first, I was thinking cupcakes; however, after looking around at recipes on the internet, I decided upon cookies.  Not just any old cookie though, I wanted a pretty pink cookie with a flower on top!  So, starting with a plain almond cookie recipe, I threw in a few more ingredients and, voilĂ , cherry blossom tea cakes!

Cherry Blossom Tea Cakes


1 cup (or 2 sticks) of butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 (rounded) teaspoon of almond extract

2 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
red food coloring

1 jar of maraschino cherries (I had to buy the largest jar on the shelf so there would be enough cherries left for the cookies...)
sliced almonds (enough so that each cookie will have 5 "petals")


Step one:  In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the egg and both extracts, beat well.

Step two:  Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add slowly to wet ingredients and mix well to form a soft dough.

Step three:  To color a soft pink, split the dough into four equal portions.  Add 4-5 drops of red food coloring to each portion, cover with plastic wrap & kneed the color evenly throughout the dough.  (Great, illustrated directions here: How to Color Cookie Dough

Step four:  Wrap the pink dough in plastic again and chill in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to an hour to firm.

Step five:  Preheat the oven to 375F degrees.  Roll the dough into small, smooth balls.  (Optional: for white cherry blossoms and extra sweetness, roll the dough balls in powdered sugar).  Place 12 on each cookie sheet and flatten.  Then, gently press five sliced almond "petals" into the center of each cookie.  (Cherry blossoms have five petals!)    

Step six:  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the edges.  Do not over bake.  While in the oven, drain the maraschino cherries (I dried them off with a paper towel) and cut each cherry in half.

Step seven:  Once the cookies come out of the oven, immediately transfer them to a baking rack.  Press half a cherry into the center of each flower.  Allow for at least five minutes to cool before removing the tea cakes from the baking rack to make room for the next batch.  (I then just moved the cookies to a paper towel to continue cooling.)

Yields: 36 delicious, cherry almond bites!  Enjoy!

June 9, 2015

Making of a Fairy Queen (Part I)

Blog posting resumes tonight with more fairy madness!  

As I've mentioned previously, for the final project of my costume internship at GCV&M, I was placed in charge of designing & creating the costumes for the new summer fairy camp.  The challenge included a fairy queen outfit (still in progress) as well as a pattern and example each for the young girl (DIY Fairy Tutu Tutorial) & boy (DIY Forest Tunic Tutorial) fairies in training.  However, after a few bumps and a super busy start to the museum season, the grand fairy queen costume was set aside...until tonight, when a little panic set in as I realized we are already into the second week of June.  I need to get a move on!  So, to start, I pulled out all of the supplies, made a quick schedule & am sharing my progress here to serve as a reminder.

The completed fairy queen costume will eventually include a puffed sleeve chemise, embroidered corset, bedazzled stomacher, and a petal & leave skirt with a full tulle underskirt.  After two months of off and on work in the shop, this is where I'm currently at with the project: 

Embroidered Corset: check!  Bevin's entirely hand-sewn corset - with beautiful embroidery I must add - served as the perfect starting point for the project.  In fact, I shaped my design and fabric selection for the skirt around this!  All I had to add was red satin ribbon (pulled from the stash) for lacing both at the shoulders and front.  

Stomacher:  check!  At the initial meeting & measuring, we discovered that there was around a four inch gap in the front of the corset.  So, turning to the 18th century for inspiration, I decided to remedy the issue with a stomacher.  This was the start of the themes for the project of complications and much trial and error.  After researching construction tips and trick on the computer, and a few mistrials, I finally reached success! 

The completed stomacher.

I drew up a quick pattern using the corset and the fairy queen's measurements, and then, played around with materials until the stomacher was stiff enough to hold its shape and support the wearer.  The stomacher is made from flat-lined forest green silk (lined with white muslin, inter-lined with two layers of lightweight buckram, lined on the inner side with white muslin, and "boned" with multiple cable ties.  

Measured and stitched boning channels through two layers of lightweight buckram and one layer of muslin.  Then, slipped the "bones" (aka cheap cable ties) in between the buckram layers and sealed the channels with another row of stitches.

Then, again drawing on 18th century inspiration (feel free to check out my Pinterest board on 18th Century Stomachers!), I played around with the design until I found the one that went best with the corset.  All of the materials came from the stash.   

Once the design finished drying - yes, hot glue is very 18th century, as are plastic gemstones - I bound the stomacher with handmade bias tape & whip stitched the back to the lining for a neat and clean finish.  

However, the best part came at the first fitting where the corset with its brand new stomacher fit the fairy queen absolutely perfectly!  It even looked great behind bright red lacing - problems solved!

Flower Petal & Leaf Skirt:  A work in progress...for the majority of the time spent on this project, I have been working on the skirt, which is still not quite finished!  Despite its many ups and downs, I am pleased with how it is turning out (my only hope is that it is finished soon). 

The skirt all laid out!  The concept idea was for it to literally look like an upside down flower - with a yellow center, red outer petals and green leaves.

I began by making a basic base for the skirt.  Using the measurements I took, as well as the skirt piece from an out of print Butterick pattern, I stitched together three wide skirt panels from a golden 100% cotton fabric.  Then, I applied a hem facing using a bright yellow, 1/2 inch double-fold bias tape (ironed flat).  

The skirt panels with zig-zag finishing.

Another neat trick I discovered from studying a skirt that Bevin made: using double fold bias tape, ironed flat, as a hem facing.  Ingenious!

Next, I spent way too many days cutting out stacks of petals from 100%, pure polyester costume satin...never again.  Each petal/leaf was lined with another satin or cotton petal - stitched right sides together, flipped and pressed flat.  Then, the top opening was zig-zagged shut (also to prevent further unraveling as satin is evil.) 

First, 10 golden petals...sparkly costume satin lined with even flimsier gold polyester:  

Second, 10 red petals...costume satin lined with either bright yellow cotton or mystery red knit fabric (never again): 

Then finally, 10 green leaves...costume satin lined in either light green, polka-dot cotton or a darker green cotton print:

Phew!  Once all of the petals & leaves were assembled, it was time to stitch them to the skirt.  The placement for each tier was carefully measured and marked.  Next, every petal was overlapped and zig-zagged in place.  And finally, the tiers, one by one, were pinned, basted and stitched to the skirt base.  One petal was purposefully left out of each color row to cover the back seam (aka the next step).   

Tier one: 

Tier two:

Next comes adding the final tier, gathering the skirt to a waistband, and attaching the tulle crinoline.  (The three layers of tulle and stiff netting are already gathered and hemmed - ready to be stitched into the skirt).  Oh, and, of course, decorating the skirt!  I am having a hard time deciding...

So many options!  Gems or no gems?  Flowers or no flowers?

Blouse:  next on the list to complete after the skirt.  Let's just say that my attempts at pattern making have been unsuccessful and I'm ready for a fresh start!  Just a picture of the blouse materials below:

So, in conclusion, this fairy queen project sure has turned out to be more complicated than I ever anticipated!  However, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how it all turns out - time to sew!

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