January 13, 2021

Solstice Swap 2020 [Gift Unboxing]

Back in December, Katie Lovely of Latina Living History organized an international "costuber" and costumer Solstice Swap!  Each of the participants drew a name in secret and exchanged gifts on the winter solstice, spreading much needed joy during the holiday season.  

Follow the official tag: #solsticeswap2020

If you've been following my other social media, you may have already seen my gift reveal, but I wanted to do a follow up post simply to share more pictures!  Look for the official tag - #solsticeswap2020 - to see all of the other, fun gift exchanges and unboxing videos on YouTube.  

But first, a shout out to Marion BrĂ©gier of the blog, Green Martha, who was my solstice swap!  Marion makes the most gorgeous historical costumes, art, and illustrations, and her bullet journal pages are seriously amazing!  If you don't already, follow her on Instagram @green.martha and on her Youtube channel.  Prepare to be inspired...and possibly start bullet journaling if you don't already :)

Solstice Swap Gift Unboxing

My solstice swap gift came from the one and only, Kristen of The Victorian Needle blog.  (She's also on Instagram @thevictorian_needle and Tiktok @the_victorian_needle, where you can find more of her crafts and hilarious #teachertok videos).  She really surprised me - going all out with my favorite colors, which are blues and corals; including Pusheen (love that cat!); and making the most beautiful, handmade and historical treasures:

Obligatory box photo...about to be opened!

And here's the reveal - I still can't believe she managed to fit everything inside the box!

Gift unboxing!

As for the particulars, there was a historical handkerchief from Burnley and Trowbridge: unknown by the sender, I actually had been eyeing this pattern for a while, and was thrilled to see this!

Postcards from the Detroit Institute of Arts: also unknown by the sender, I collect postcards!  So, Kristen really checked off every box with her gift ;)

And an incredible, hand-beaded, punch paper sewing box filled with an assortment of matching, punch paper sewing accessories! 

Hand-beaded, punch paper sewing box and matching accessories!

In case you were wondering what "punch paper" refers to, it is actually a heavy-weight paper with a grid of evenly-spaced, punched holes through which embroidery thread can be worked, much like modern day Aida cloth or needlepoint canvas.  According to an article on "Perforated Paper Needlework" by Diana Matthews, "perforated carboard" was available by the 1820s, and "gained in favor over the decades to become one of the most popular craft items of the Victorian age."

Matthews further speaks to the popularity and widespread uses for the craft, explaining that:

"During its heyday, perforated paper was available in dozens of different colors and embossed patterns and was used for making a large variety of household items.  Godey's Lady's Book, Peterson's Magazine as well as a host of other periodicals and books of the day regularly gave patterns for items to be made from this most innovative product.  Needle cases, wall pockets, stamp holders, hair receivers and complicated ornaments could be fashioned from it along with the bookmarks and mottoes as it lent itself well to both flat and 3-dimensional crafts." 
- "Perforated Paper Needlework" by Diana Matthews, Victoriana Magazine 

In fact, Kristen is an avid creator and collector of all things perforated paper, and probably holds the largest, antique, punch paper collection in the country, if not the world.  She's also written a booklet with scaled patterns (if you can find a copy, I highly recommend!), and teaches workshops on the subject.

Each component of Kristen's gift is a work of art itself, so I wanted to highlight the items on their own to give a sense of scale and close-ups of the intricate details.  Starting with the beaded sewing box, which is lined in royal blue silk:

Matching, embroidered thread winders:

A beaded, castle-shaped tape measure and holder, which took a lot of engineering! 

A needlebook with a very Victorian rose on the one side, and Pusheen on the other:

And finally, the most adorable, needle felted Pusheen - gosh I love that cat! 

I'm just in awe of all the time, talents, and thought Kristen put into her solstice swap gift...I'm honored to be the recipient and to call her my friend - thank you so much, Kristen! ❤️

January 4, 2021

Year in Review: Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021!

We made it, everyone, 2020 is over and done, and here's to another trip around the sun!

To say that the last year was difficult would be an understatement.  Uncertainty is uncomfortable, frustrating, and even frightening; but our continued hopes, dreams, and the possibilities in the new year ahead are unstoppable! 

There is no magic wand to free us from these trying times, (believe me, I'd be the first to wave one if I could), and, unfortunately, the turn of a calendar page may have little immediate effect on the state of the current pandemic.  I write this not to discourage, but to encourage us to reflect - to admit to deep disappointment, feel sadness, and grieve - and to celebrate the victories, both big and small.  More important than ever, in the upcoming year, let's set reasonable expectations, and be kind to ourselves and to others.  My mantra for 2021: expect nothing, appreciate everything.  

Speaking of appreciation, I'm so grateful for the continued encouragement of my sewing, weaving, education, and living history adventures.  To my friends, family, patrons, and all of you lovely followers on this blog, on the Facebook page, and on Instagram - thank you!  It's only because of your generous support that I'm able to create this content, which brings me and, hopefully, others so much joy.  

So to kick off the blogging for 2021, here's a look at last year's favorite memories:

Year in Review: 2020 Highlights

An interview with the National Geographic! 

Find the full article, here: "Historic Interpreters Share Their Sides of the Story"

This was an opportunity of a lifetime, and the greatest honor to be included with so many powerful voices, including Cheyney McKnight of Not Your Momma's History.  To tell the story - of their history, our history, American history - and to be a part of a more diverse and inclusive future at living history sites and museums.  Many thanks to the journalists, Jennifer Barger and Heather Greenwood Davis, for their important work, and to my friend, Cheyney, for leading the path forward.  

If you haven't already, read the article, here: "Historic Interpreters Share Their Sides of the Story

Speaking at Costume On 2: Tailored, an international online conference!

The biannual, international online conference, Costume On, connects costumers and historical fashion enthusiasts from all over the world for a weekend of virtually-hosted seminars and workshops.  (Make sure to visit their website at: 1886location.com for upcoming conferences, master classes throughout the year, historical patterns, and more!)

During the Fall 2020 conference, I had the great privilege and pleasure of teaching two classes!  I wrote a blog post about those classes, here: Online Conference - Costume On 2: Tailored.   The first lecture presented Chinese-American history through the lens of the Civil War, giving background on early Chinese immigration, stories from both sides of the war, and post-war discrimination and lasting legacy.  In fact, through this conference, thanks to several steps of connections, I was able to correspond with a long-time hero of mine, Irving Moy, author of An American Journey, living historian, and expert on Chinese-American participation in the Civil War.  We've since kept in touch, and his continued encouragement and the wealth of information he's shared are truly invaluable. 

The second lecture was on Orientalism, defined by centuries of complex, cross-cultural borrowing, imitation, and appropriation, with a particular emphasis on the textiles, garments, and accessories that have shaped menswear from the late-16th through 19th centuries.  I've become enamored with this extensive area of dress history, and it has endless possibilities for presentations (so keep an eye out for more on this subject to come in 2021...)

I learned so much, personally and professionally, about presenting through this debut into (online) public speaking, and I'm so grateful to Chantal Filson, the founder and dean of the conference, for the opportunity - thank you! 

Launching a Patreon!

This was somewhat of a surprise endeavor this year, and never would have been possible without the support of my good friend, social media guru, and personal champion, Kristen.  Launched during the summer quarantine, it's been amazing to connect with an online costuming community through zoom meetings, our monthly, "sip-and-sew" live chants, and other virtual events. 

On Patreon, several membership levels or tiers allow patrons to directly assist individual artists and makers in their creative endeavors.  In exchange, patrons unlock exclusive contents, live chats, personalized gifts, and more, funding the hopes and dreams of many creators, including yours truly! 

In fact, I have four, lovely patrons to thank today!  Their support and belief in me actively transforms current and future projects from dreams to reality.  And I look forward to developing my Patreon throughout this upcoming year, and beyond! 

Completing my college thesis & dress project!

A model of a period-correct costume for a historical interpreter.

After three semesters of research, writing, and sewing (and additional complications during the pandemic), my senior thesis - Wearing History: The Value in Costuming Historical Interpreters at Living History Sites & Museums - and the accompanying dress project (depicted above) are finished!  

In total, I wrote a 46-page research paper, exploring the potential in adequately-funded, period-accurate costuming programs for improving visitor engagement, staff performance, and institutional credibility and outreach.  For the project component, I assembled a model of a period-correct costume for a historical interpreter, constructing everything from the undergarments, to the day dress, accessories, and outerwear.  I also composed a series of appendixes to document the construction process, quantify the costs, and justify each design choice with descriptions from the chosen time period.  All in all, handing the massive project in was a relief, and I'd love to publish it in some form in the future.  

I graduated summa cum laude! 

It's official, I hold a Bachelor's of Integrated Studies (with two minors) from Kent State University!

Somehow I managed to survive art school - with double concentrations in costume construction and textile arts.  (The 4.0, however, comes at the cost of three years without sleep...there was the weekly all-nighter or two, late nights and weekends in the studios, and finals weeks we will never speak of again, #stilltramatized).  Two decades as a career student are over, and onto the next chapter...living history museums here I come!

Social Media Milestones

I try not to get caught up with the numbers game, but I did want to mention the social media milestones of 2020:

  • Our Facebook page broke 500+ "likes" and followers.  
  • On the blog, I managed to write 18 blog posts, which, though modest in number, is up from the previous year...we also rebranded as The Sewphisticate, a name which better reflects my growth not only as a seamstress, but as a textile artist, educator and living historian.

What will 2021 bring?

Since there's no telling when in-person events may resume, I'd like to draw your attention to the fabulous Virtual Regency Retreat, hosted by the Historic Joseph Teel House!  (Registration is open until January 28th, with the virtual retreat running January 29th through the 31st)  According to their website, the event will feature an entire weekend of guest speakers, performances, and other activities, including a virtual fashion show, which I have the honor of being a participant:

Virtual fashion show at the Joseph Teel House - 
Visit their website to see all of the participants!

I'm also looking forward to more public speaking engagements in the future (plans are already in the works!), as well as continuing to build and maintain an online presence in the New Year.  While I feel some uncertainty, there's also excitement for what's to come next...

Cheers 2021, and may we make every minute count!

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