November 26, 2015

Ode to Autumn - 1830s Photo Shoot

"How beautiful the season is now. How fine the air -- a temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather - Dian skies. I never liked stubble-fields so much as now -- aye, better than chilly green of the Spring. Somehow, a stubble plain looks warm, in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday's walk that I composed upon it." ~ Keats in a letter to Reynolds, dated the 22nd of September, 1819 

Happy Thanksgiving, dearest readers!  There are just so many blessings to give abundant thanks for -- for family, for friends, for our community.  For the food and comforts we enjoy.  For our country, for our wold.  To be safe, to be alive.  For the better and brighter future ahead.  However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a beautiful day.

Two weeks ago now, my sister, Maria, & I visited Ellison Park, which is only about a 20 minute walk away from home, to photograph my newest 1830s short gown outfit.  Over top my mid-century undergarments, I am sporting a new, rust-colored, 1830s short gown and chocolate linen petticoat.  A small-checked kerchief, bibbed apron (both new), and ruffly cap (blog post here) complete the look.  (First worn for the second Domestic Skills Symposium at the Genesee Country Village & Museum.)  

It was cold, overcast, and beginning to rain by the time we left, but Maria worked her magic with the camera -- and, I am so happy to get to share the results.  Thank goodness for my sister, and willing photographer!  (All photographs courtesy of Maria M. - many, many thanks!)

Completed Project Shots:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; 
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,         
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease; 
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Poem, "Ode to Autumn," by John Keats, composed on the 22nd of September, 1819.  Stay tuned for more construction details to come...thanks for reading!

November 25, 2015

Costume Design Challenge: Day Eight - Ten

I've joined the November Costume Design Challenge hosted by the famous & fabulous Lauren of Wearing History!  And you can too by clicking on link above or official banner on the sidebar...

Week One was completed in Part I & Part II, so it's onto Week Two!  Here are the challenges:

(Image via: Wearing History)

And, here are my designs, enjoy!

Challenge #8: The Factory Worker 

Please click for larger image.

Factory (noun) - A building or group of buildings where goods are manufactured or assembled chiefly by machine; Worker (noun) - One that works especially at manual or industrial labor or with a particular material, a "factory worker" often used in combination. 

Design:  Hard work and harder life.  Long hours and longer days.  Menial, repetitive tasks.  Poor conditions.  Little light and littler hope.  Maybe I've been watching too much Les Misérables (it is after all one of my favorite, if not my favorite musicals), but Fantine, a victim of unfair circumstance and tragic fate, came to mind when I saw the challenge.  Therefore, clad in blue for sorrow and brown for toil,  my early 19th century mill worker would be wearing a simple, tattered, calico dress, apron, and blue cap to protect her locks.

Movie inspiration: (not included in collage).  I am intrigued by the caps that these mill workers from the relatively recent drama, The Mill (2013), are wearing.  I'm not familiar with the drama, but I think the look is spot on!  The tatters, the dirt, the cold, the strife, but still, a glimmer of hope can be drawn from the scene:

Apprentices at Greg's mill, Channel 4's drama - The Mill.
(Image via: The Telegraph)

Les Misérables (2012): Great scene, great costumes:

Still of Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables (2012) by Laurie Sparham.
(Image via: IMDb - Les Misérables)

More Les Mis, I loved the variety of ages, shapes and sizes among the factory workers.  The blues, browns and bronzes are perfect:

Still of Anne Hathaway, Kate Fleetwood and Hannah Waddingham in Les Misérables (2012).
(Image via: IMDb - Les Misérables)

Soft stays, in the right colors, form the support for her outer garments and for her back throughout the long day ahead:

Corset bodice, c.1800-1825
National Trust Collections
(Image via: Pinterest)

A basic, all-covering apron protects a simple, yet slightly faded, calico dress from more dirt and grime:

Old Sturbridge Village work dress and apron.
(Image via: Pinterest)

A blue corded sunbonnet:  Or even better, a coif of the same color (like above) to cover her hair:

Corded sunbonnet.
(Image via: Sewing Academy)

Challenge #9: A Royal Wedding 

Please click for larger image.

Definition: Royal (adjective) - (1) Of or relating to a king, queen, or other sovereign, (2) Appropriate to or befitting royalty, magnificent, stately; Wedding (noun) - a marriage ceremony usually with its accompanying festivities, nuptials.

Design:  Quite the contrast from the previous day's challenge, for this fairy tale wedding, nothing less than the absolute best is required!  The bridal gown, with its open lace, cut glass and diamond encrusted back, and small train, is made from the purest of white fabrics.  The long, traditional veil, held in place by a royal crown, is every bit as splendid and ethereal as the dress - truly fit for a queen.

I find this detail from the back of a Rami Salamoun bridal gown very inspiring.  It has the texture and ethereal quality that I am seeking - just look at how the lace and gemstones(?) appear to be magically suspended.  If only I could find a picture of the full gown...

Detail from a gown designed by Rami Salamoun.
(Image via: Pinterest)

THE dress!?!  I absolutely love the shape of the skirt and train.  The cut of the sleeves and back are also very complimenting.  I think we have a winner! 

Off the shoulder, lace wedding dress, $328, sold.
(Image via: Etsy, Pinterest)

This veil, with its scalloped edges and delicate white work, is absolutely perfection: 

Antique veil from "A Delicate Tuscan Inspired Outdoor Wedding."
(Image via: Oncewed)

Another example of the classic veil I am aiming for, from none other than Grace Kelly's famous wedding gown:

Grace Kelly wedding dress veil, detail shot.
(Image via: Pinterest)

Dare I say this is one of the most beautiful, modern wedding dresses that I have ever seen?  I can definitely image the overlay as the back extension of the bridal veil:  Talk about ethereal!

Spring 2014 "Aurora" designed by Miosa Couture.
(Image via: Wedding Wire)

Challenge #10: The Chorus Girl

Please click for larger image.

Definition: Chorus (noun) - A group of singers or dancers, often supporting the featured players; Chorus girl (noun) - A female singer or dancer of the chorus of a musical comedy, revue, vaudeville show, etc.

Design:  Bright, flashy and fabulous!  Drawing my inspiration from the 1890s can can dancers of the Moulin Rouge, my chorus girl would be ready to dance the night away in a mass of scarlet ruffles and glittering gold embellishments, catching the light at every kick and turn.  Not to mention, adorned with abundant plumage and wicked heels to match.

Vintage inspiration:

Vintage Can-Can dancers
(Image via: Deviant Art - MementoMori-stock)

Just look at that wild headpiece!  

Vintage Photograph
(Image via: Flickr)

More plumes and quite the can-can costume: 

Nini Legs-in-the-Air, a Parisian Can-Can dancer.
(Image via: Pinterest)

Pulling some inspiration from the ballet world, this costume from Don Quixote, especially the ruffly skirt, is perfect: 

Olga Semenova in Don Quixote, by Nikolay Krusser.
(Image via: Tumblr)

I really like the flashy embellishments on this tutu:  It's all about texture!  Bring on the lace!  The paste stones!  The gold & hints of black! 

Kitri's Wedding Tutu, Don Quixote Act III, designed by Yuki F.
(Image via: Pinterest)

And, finally, how about a pair of these vivid and unforgettable boots?

Barrette boots, meant to be worn while dancing the tango.
(Image via: Bata Shoe Museum, Pinterest)

Please visit my November Costume Design Challenge Pinterest Board for all of my inspiration images, as well as where you will find the links to the original image sources.  Thanks for reading!

November 19, 2015

I Dye, You Dye, We All Dye!

Three weeks ago, on October 31st actually, eight of us - Deanna, Ron, Patti, Dawn, Sarah, Marisa, Allison & I - gathered at Kieffer for a day of dyeing.  It was as much fun as it was a learning experience, so I just had to share!

Dye pots at Kieffer.

Part I: Preparation

Deanna invited me to join in the staff dye day this year and had the brilliant suggestion of dyeing some cotton yarn for my first tape loom project - of course, I was dyeing to join the fun!  While I've had the opportunity to assist during dye days throughout the season, I've never worked on the yarn preparation beforehand.  I found it fascinating to try my hand at the preparation process - from winding and tying, to scouring and mordanting.  Since this was all new to me, I owe a huge thank you to Deanna, who, in addition to coordinating the staff dye day, walked me through every step of dyeing!  She is really an amazing role model and asset to the village team, leading and interpreters every, singe day to learn all that they can about the past and to keep the historic domestic skills and arts alive.  

Step one: Procure yarn (I chose a basic, size 10, cotton crochet yarn) and scouring materials (washing soda & blue dawn dish detergent).  Obtain mordants, dyes (for a red & gold color) and, most importantly, directions - all from Deanna.

Scouring supplies.
For cotton: use ratio of 1 teaspoon of detergent to 2 teaspoons of washing soda.
For wool, linen, silk and other fiber contents, you're on your own...

Mordants: Tannin on the left, alum on the right.

Dye #1: Madder.

Dye #2: Fustic.

Step two:  Measure out lengths of cotton, twist and tie skeins three times.  I used the backs of two kitchen chairs spaced a yard apart to make my skeins.  About 84 yards, given shrinkage, is half an ounce, which made for easy dye recipe figuring.  The 12 "figure-eight" ties were to prevent a terribly snarled mess to untangle at the end, remember that cotton shrinks on itself!

Skeins tied and ready to go!

Step three:  Scour cotton.  For one ounce total, I used 1 teaspoon of blue detergent, 2 teaspoons of washing soda & 1 gallon of water.  Simmered for two hours, and then rinsed well.  It was so surprising to see clear water turn yellowish-brownish from "white," bleached cotton!

Scouring in process.

Step four:  Put dyes to soak and extract while waiting for skeins to finish simmering.  For the madder, I added boiling water and set the roots to soak until the weekend.  For the fustic, I began extracting the dye (boiling several times and straining), until I ran out of space in the container and left the rest of the chips to soak.

Madder root put to soak - which smelled very much like a pleasant, strong tea!

Extracting fustic dye.

Step five:  With the scouring over, mordanting begins!  Alum & washing soda were the first bath.  The cotton skein destined for madder steeped for 12 hours, while the skein destined for old fustic steeped for 24 hours.

Mordanting in process.

Step six:  Mordant again!  This time in tannin, which reminded me of pumpkins...Only the skein destined for madder steeped for 12 hours.

More mordanting in process.

Step seven:  And again!  After rinsing the skein from the tannin, it returned to the alum bath and soaked for another 12 hours.

Even more mordanting in process.

Step eight (optional):  Bake cookies & reflect.  Prepping yarn for dyeing was both a learning experience and an eye opener to the amount of work that goes into one day of fun.  My appreciation for Deanna and the other interpreters who work with the dyeing at the village just increased again!

Part II:  Dye Day

Laughing. Learning.  Teaching.  Catching up. Telling stories. Skein winding.  Fire building.  Spinning.  Eating.  Mordanting.  Dyeing.  What a wonderful way to spend a day with friends who are like family, at the village that has become a place to call home!  

Still setting up.

Some of the crew:  several of us had our cameras out, and there were plenty of pictures from the day on Facebook!  (I hope Deanna doesn't mind me borrowing her picture...)

Photograph credit: Deanna B.
(Image via: Facebook)

There were a range of fibers from wool yarns of various weights and contents, to cotton yarns and cloths, and even silk fibers waiting to be spun! 

Skein winding!

Lots of colors too, including reds (madder, cinnamon), yellows (goldenrod, fustic), and blues (Saxon blue, Prussian blue)!

Madder in front, goldenrod in back.
There were plenty of madder jokes to go around!

Ron adding skeins to the beginnings of Prussian blue.

More madder and Saxon blue.
These two are fantastic knitters, by the way!

It was just amazing to see the range of colors that could be produced from the same dye baths!  

Saxon blue, goldenrod & Prussian blue.

Just look at the difference in the Saxon blues!
The fiber blend (wool, acrylic, silk) affects how the dye is absorbed.

As for the tale of my little, two skeins...they first were agitated in a chalk solution for half an hour:

Clear water became white with chalk and vigorous rolling on the ground.

Then, the skein destined for fustic was simmered in the dye bath.  First, however, we had to finish extracting all of the dye from the fustic chips and strain them through cheese cloth.  Gathering and tying them prevents having to not only untangle, but later separate the leftover wood chips from the yarn.  The result was a bright yellow:

Straining the dye.  Photograph credit: Deanna B.
(Image via: Facebook).
And, yes, I did wear my Cinderella skirt, it was Halloween after all!

Bright yellow fustic.

To turn the skein gold, a small measure of blue vitriol was added to the dye bath.  The resulting "Old Fustic" color was a perfect match to the autumn leaves of our late fall!

"Old Fustic" dyed cotton hung out to dry.

As for the skein destined for a deep red, it was simmered in the madder dye bath for two hours or so.  It could have been left immersed longer for a darker color, but I quite liked the color it ended up.  

Madder dyeing in progress. 

The finished product (after drying for several days):

Three lovely skeins ready for weaving!

Note: the Prussian blue was a last-minute experiment of dropping a skein of unmordanted cotton into the wool formula for the dye.  First it began as a creamy, fustic-like yellow, then it became a minty green, and, finally, a sky blue color - success!

Who's ready to weave?  My first tape loom project, medieval garters like these (below), here I come!

(Image via: Trollkona)

All in all, what a privilege to be included in such a fun event - thank you!

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