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Friday, May 4, 2012

Titanic Dinner & Dress: Sink or Swim

This is the continuation of my 1912 dress saga. Having finished the basic dress, I now had to figure out what I wanted to do with it.

Inspired by two dresses featured in Nancy Bradford's "Costume in Detail," I created a lace "caplet" embroidered with sequins and caviar beads which draped over the shoulders and was secured in the back by an embroidered lace rosette. The lace was secured to the neckline and front of the dress with a rolled hem and the ends were tucked into the waistband.

 I also created rosettes for the waistband and the fronts of my shoes with the leftover lace and sequins--not that there were that many sequins left: 
Mary Page took it upon herself to get into my bead/sequin stash and use it in her play kitchen. Rob and I looked over and found to our horror that there were caviar beads and black sequins EVERYWHERE in her corner of the family room! We are going to be vacuuming those little guys up for years!

Anyway, despite ample planning ahead, I, of course, sewed on the dress up until the absolute last minute before it was time to get dressed. Rob wore tails and carried his 1890s beaver top hat. He also decided to wear his Hospitaller Order of Saint John. I chose to accessorize with long black gloves and a tiara, of course!

We arrived early enough at the Austin Club to get photographs of us in our ensemble as well as the dining room and table. Oh my, everything was a feast for the eye as well as the body. The food was delicious and I did not do a very good job of pacing myself. By the time we got to the Punch Romaine, I had had enough, but still had to at least try to taste everything.

The wines, as suggested by both the Austin Wine and Food Society as well as Chef Mike Maples were superb accompaniments to the incredible dishes.

We later took photographs of me in the dress at the 1911 farmhouse at Chatfield. You can see more of the details of the dress including the fateful sequins and beadwork! The hat is also of my own creation. Rob took great pictures--maybe he should be the one carrying the camera all the time!

Visit my photo albums for more pictures of the event and dress!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Titanic Dress Chronicles: Design and Construction

We are going to a dinner April 14th at the Austin Club that will recreate the last dinner served to the first class passengers on the night the Titanic sank. In the spirit of the evening, I decided to create a 1912 gown to wear to the event. I have been documenting my sewing progress on one of my online craft groups and I'm re-posting some of that information here.

First, a little background about this project: Because life is rather unpredictable, I had the good sense to begin work on this back in January when we first learned of the dinner. Also, for various reasons including the fact I could better supervise our two year old daughter Mary Page, I decided to sew this project by hand using just a needle and thread. Yes, they did have sewing machines back in 1912, but the ability to sit on the couch and watch “Downton Abbey” while I stitched was too appealing. Incidentally, I viewed both seasons of “Downton Abbey,” the 1920s Manchester hotel drama “The Grand,” and “all four seasons of “Bramwell” while sewing this gown. Thank goodness for Netflix on Demand!!!

For this project I chose Sense and Sensibility's 1910 Tea Gown pattern to be sewn in dark green satin and black lace. Not only did the pattern feature real sleeves, but the lines were clean and would be a fairly quick sew. Also, the design lent itself to creative embellishment. I would use the pattern for the base of the dress--other talents would be cultivated to finish the gown!

After tracing the patterns onto tissue paper, I cut out and sewed a "toile" using unbleached muslin in order to fit the bodice. Not only would this extra step help me get a better result, I planned to use the muslin as the bodice lining. It’s a good thing I chose to do this as I had to make some changes--namely lengthening the bodice pattern by 2 inches--the high waisted bodice was TOO high and it looked like a vest that Jeannie on "I Dream of Jeannie" would wear!

Once the toile was fitted, I took the plunge and cut out the dress fabric and lace overlay-- you can see the pattern laid out on the table. I've never worked with satin before and knowing that the fabric is pretty unforgiving about holes, I made sure to use satin pins only in the seam areas.

Laying out the lace was more of a challenge because the lace has a distinct, though repeating, pattern. I wanted to make sure that the lace lined up appropriately on the two sides of my bodice and so I made sure to lay out the pattern side-by-side. It was more wasteful of the fabric, but this way I'm hoping the design isn't jarring.

I originally planned to line up the pattern so that the scalloped lace was on the edge of the sleeve (the bodice is cut out in right and left halves with the kimono sleeve already attached) but it would have made the bodice lace line up perpendicular to the lace in the skirt. If I decide I want to have the lace edge on the sleeve cuff, then I'll just applique it.

I pinned together the satin bodice pieces and lace overlay and hand-basted the parts together. Then Mary Page woke up from her nap and I had to set the project aside...

Next update:

One of my quandries was what I was going to do with the center section of the bodice. My dress is designed with black lace over dark green satin. Rather than use an entirely different combination of fabrics, I decided to create a darker, yet visually cohesive look by arranging the black lace in layers on top of a base of green satin. I ended up using about five layers of lace.

Having created the center section, I was ready to sew up the bodice and bodice lining. Unfortunately I didn't think to get out my camera until after these sections had been sewn, but I laid out my handiwork and will try to show what I did. I used the muslin toile as my lining. You can see how the bodice sides came together to form the kimono sleeves and how the lining was sewn to the seam allowance of the green satin/black lace

Views of the bodice from the inside. Also, you can see the bodice with the darker black lace middle section.

Next, I tackled the skirts. Even though I treated the satin and lace as one piece on the bodice, the skirts are sewn separately. The satin and lace layers, plus the underskirt meant I had to cut and sew three different sets of fabric.
Each skirt was cut in three pieces--a front and two backs so there were two side seams and one seam in the back to sew on each layer.
Sewing the satin skirt and underskirt was pretty straightforward as I did a simple seam. Because the cut edges tended to fray, I snipped the outer edge with my pinking shears after I had sewn up the seam.

The lace overskirt, however, was a little more complicated. The pattern suggested assembling the lace with French seams. I chose instead to do a modified flat-felled seam. After sewing the sections together with a 3/8 seam allowance, I clipped one of the two edges by half then folded the longer edge over the shorter and sewed them together again.
I then sewed the folded edge to the actual lace itself. Now I have a completely enclosed seam that won't catch on the lace.

Next step: gathering the skirt layers and attaching them to the bodice.

Having finished assembling the bodice and the skirt, lace overlay, and underskirt, it was time to put them together. My first task was to gather the skirts so that they would fit onto the bodice waist.
Because I am hand-sewing this dress, I chose to use a gathering technique similar to that used when creating 19th century dresses--cartridge pleating. Cartridge pleating draws large amounts of fabric into a small space--necessary with wide skirts that need to be gathered onto a proportionately small waistband. However, because the skirt on my Titanic dress wasn't so full and the waist will ultimately be covered by a sash, I didn't have to make the pleats either as fine or as even.

After layering the lace over the skirt and underskirt and pinning all three together, I sewed two lines of stitches through all three layers parallel to the waistline.

I used white thread to for the stitches because I wanted to differentiate them from the seams AND I wanted to make it easier on myself when I removed them.
Once I stitched all the way 'round the waist, I pulled the strings to gather the fabric. After lining up the center front of the skirts with the center front of the bodice, I turned the bodice upside down and pinned the top edge of the skirt with the bottom edge of the bodice then sewed them together.

Once the skirt and bodice were attached, I was able to lay out the dress and see how well they went together.

You can see in the photograph some of the gathering threads peaking out below the waist--that's ok, I snipped them and pulled them out--the gathers will be held together by the stitching at the waistband.

Then I put in the zipper (not period correct, but it will ultimately be hidden) and placed the dress on my very crooked duct-tape dressmaker dummy.You can see how the multiple layers of black lace in the center section provide a subtle difference to the rest of the dress. Its actually a very plain gown and I'm nowhere near finished with it.

Next steps involve hemming the sleeves and bottom as well as adding the trimming. I will be taking a basic dress and really making something special! That will be in the second part of Titanic Dress saga...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wikipedia Loves Libraries

I've been a terrible blogger, but I do still get on the computer and read about information sometimes. Today I ran across this concept: the Wikipedia Loves Libraries Editathon. Yes, I know that Wikipedia is not the best resource for information and yes, I like everyone else, visit it frequently. The solution--help make it better. If I were less lazy, I'd organize an Editathon as no one, at least as of this morning, has one happening here in Austin. Well, maybe next year. Meanwhile, here you can read more about it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Photo selected in contest!

Today I found out my photograph of our horses was chosen in the first group of pictures in a contest on Pioneer Woman's blog. Check it out here:


It is of two horses in a clump of cedar trees and is about midway down the page. I'm credited as jmp8107. Its a real unusual picture and I didn't do any retouching or anything. It was just snapped at random when we were out cutting down a Christmas tree in our back pasture.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Parents Photo Faves

I know I'm biased, but I've entered my little girl's picture in a contest at Parents' Magazine. If you think she's cute, click the link below and vote for her! Come on, you know you want to...
Parents Photo Faves

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mary Page's Baptism

Our little girl has finally been brought into the flock. She was baptized on Oct 30, 2010 at Chatfield in her mother's own baptismal gown. We are so pleased!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Cutie Kewpie Doll!

Time has flown! Last week our daughter turned eight months old. Although infants change a lot over the course of their babyhood, one thing has remained consistent: she has ALWAYS resembled a classic Kewpie doll! However, at this time she particularly echoes the doll because of her size and shape. Judge for yourself--she even has the little topknot curl!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oddly funny or funnily odd?

Found today: online comic strip "Hark! A Vagrant" by Canadian historian-turned-humorist Kate Beaton. Sometimes headscratchingly funny. Where else can you read illustrated humor featuring Nicola Tesla, Robert Peel, and the Headless Horseman all in one place?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I LOVE this sort of thing!

The Times Online has a link to this fantastic website that posts global information on a world map. Check out International Number Ones (Because Everyone is Good at Something). Spoiler Alert: the US is number one in Serial Killers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Slimer Revisted at the NY Public Library

For all you folks that remember the '80s with a little fondness, the group Improv Everywhere has restaged "Ghostbusters" at the NY Public library. Lots of pictures and some memories!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Edible Book Festival!

Though they began this festival after my graduation from the program, as an alumna of the UT Graduate School of Library & Information Science (now known as the iSchool), I still follow some of the quirkier events. The Edible Book Festival is one of them. What a way to eat your words! Some look truly appetizing. Others, just clever. Nonetheless, they make great browsing! Check it out!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Librarians After My Own Heart

Having not worked in a public library for almost 10 years, I am thankful that I don't have to deal with the not so fun aspects of library work (angry ranters, disgusting mess cleanup). However I've truly missed the serendipitous encounters with odd books. Two librarians in Michigan can help fill that void with their blog “Awful Library Books.” For anyone who thinks all books are sacrosanct, remember, sometimes you’ve just gotta toss the trash to make room for treasure. Yes, bad books do exist.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 1) - Errol Morris Blog - NYTimes.com

Today the Extraordinaire shares a fascinating NY Times series written by filmmaker Errol Morris about art forgery, aesthetic shift, and how we perceive the past. Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 1) - Errol Morris Blog - NYTimes.com

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Extraordinarie's Extraordinary Adventures at the Doctor's Office

Most of the Informatician Extraordinaire's time of late has been taken up with recovering from a bout of bronchitis-turned-to-pneumonia. Though she has returned to work, today's installment of the continuing saga includes another round of antibiotics. Folks, this is week FOUR! Fortunately, swine-flu seems to not be in the picture. Meanwhile, this information manager is managing to stumble home and into bed. Maybe next week will offer a little less medical drama...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dewey Decimalize Yourself!

For those of you who have nothing better to do (that's none of you, right?) check out this nifty, funny site wherein you can get yourself classified according to Melville Dewey's Great Classification System.

Jennifer Payne's Dewey Decimal Section:

879 Literatures of other Italic languages

800 Literature

Literature, criticism, analysis of classic writing and mythology.

What it says about you:
You're a global, worldly person who wants to make a big impact with your actions. You have a lot to tell people and you're good at making unique observations about everyday experiences. You can notice and remember details that other people think aren't important.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

Results may vary, but are likely fun!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I want to buy a paper doll (part 1)

Librarians are collectors by nature. Its not "do you collect" but "what do you collect." Frequently it is books, but some of us branch out to other treasures. The Extraordinaire has many obsessions, high among them: paper dolls.

Lately she's been admiring the growing number of websites devoted to creating, collecting, and trading these little gems. eBay is a fantastic source too, but the Extraordinaire is always tempted to add to her collection. Look but don't touch (thy credit card) is the mantra she should be following. It's amazing the prices commanded by these little pieces of paper! Fortunately, many are "reasonable," though the Extraordinaire suggests that readers get familiar with the market before jumping in.

A few sites of interest:

Original Paper Doll Artists Guild

Paper Doll Game for the Fashionista

Next: The Extraordinaire's Paper Dolls

Friday, March 20, 2009

Seeing Green

The color green has been on The Extraordinaire's mind a lot lately. Yes, it was recently St. Patrick's Day in all its glory; the world is also in a financial crisis that threatens to trickle down to yours truly as well as others in her circle; global warming continues to make the news too. However, what has taken her mind off of these pressing issues is her recent foray into Martha Stewart-ship and a dinner party given for an out of town friend to celebrate a recent engagement.

Never mind about the food, the table looked FANTASTIC!

Green tablecloth, green Bordallo Pinheiro pottery from Portugal with silver chargers, and a grapevine hanging from the chandelier.

There's a commercial out there where a woman whose Southern accent is thicker than even that of The Extraordinaire's mother (and that's pretty darn Southern) who remarks "I can't cook, but I sure can set a cute table." Fortunately for the guests, the cooking that night was pretty good, but for once there was a feast for the eyes.

Yes this is bragging, but, well, sometimes you've just got to show off and with my track record, this may be the only time such a thing is worthy of sharing!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another Book-thingy for Organizing Your Reads

As yet another example of how the Extraordinaire is behind the times, yet quickly catching up: yesterday, finally, the facebook application VisualBookshelf appeared onto the radar. A recent joiner of online social networks, Yours Truly has become quite the adapter, albeit a late one, of various add-ons and other nifty services. VisualBookshelf is the latest.

Disappointed that LibraryThing was not so easily integrated into her service of choice, The Extraordinaire discovered that several friends were using something else as part of their Facebook accounts. Fortunately, because the she is, indeed, an Infomatician, ISBNs to thousands of her collection were easily acquired. Though still in the process of updating, the collection has grown and now even includes some of her reviews. Now her friends on Facebook can marvel at the breadth and absurdity of her bookshelves. Hopefully she'll have an opportunity to learn what other people think of the books they've read. Check out her library shelves and she'll happily take a look at yours...