July 31, 2009


I've been in a slight sewing slump these last few days and have instead been voraciously reading. Last night I finished Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman.

It is the story behind the new movie "The Duchess" although it apparently doesn't follow the book very closely. Because I've heard the movie is not very appropriate, and because of the rating, I was happy just to look at screen caps of the costumes. When my friend told me about this book I quickly got it from the library. It was written before the movie, and is written more like a story than a biography.

Georgiana was a very influential woman, she was actively involved in politics, and a she was a fashion icon. She was best friends with Marie Antoinette, and with the Prince Regent (of whom the Regency period is named for) Along with Marie Antoinette she popularized the white "Chemise Dresses" and these hats with the large feather.

One of the Duchess's (many) homes was the lovely Chatsworth House. You might recognize it from Pride and Prejudice (2005). It is still a part of the Devonshire estate.

July 26, 2009


Coppelia is a ballet based on two short stories written by ETA Hoffman in 1816; Der Sandman, and Die Puppe. Hoffman also wrote the story which the Nutcracker is based on. The music was written by Leo Delibes and the original choreography was done by Arthur Saint-Leon. It premiered on May 25th, 1870 in France.

This picture is from the Royal Ballet's Coppelia. The video of it on YouTube (doll scene) is amazing. It is my favorite scene in the ballet, and very well done.

The story revolves around Swanilda and her fiance Franz in a small European village several hundred years ago. Everyone is curious about a beautiful girl, Coppelia, who sits reading in the window of the foreboding Dr Coppelius's house. They think she is his daughter and are frustrated because she won't join in their festivities.

Swanilda catches Franz blowing kisses to the girl and is frustrated because they are to be married the next day. She sneaks into Dr. Coppelius's workshop to figure out who this girl is. When she realizes that Coppelia is simply a doll she is relieved and laughs at Franz's foolishness. When Dr. Coppelius unexpectedly returns, Swanilda hides from him by dressing up in the doll's clothing. She teases and taunts the Dr, breaking his dolls, and ruining his shop. Finally she reveals the naked mannequin and runs out of the shop leaving Coppelius amidst the ruin.

Swanilda and Franz become reconciled and the next morning celebrate their wedding amidst the townsfolk, and it all ends happily ever after!

Here is my sister and I in our first act costumes. She had her first solo in Mazurka, which is a folk dance. I was a friend of Swanilda.

This is my friend Emi and I being friendly in our friend costumes.

In the second act Jennifer was a doll in Dr Coppelius's workshop. Here she is posing with some of the other dolls. (it's kind of hard to recognize them in makeup, Jen's in brown)

In the third act I was the sunrise. I can't really describe how it fit into the story, but it was a great part to dance.

July 24, 2009


Why did the fabric store have to discount their navy blue wool just when I was thinking about bathing suits?!?! I don't (didn't) need any more fabric in my closet!

July 20, 2009


Following Trina's example, I entered the Christa Taylor Design your Dream Dress contest!

July 18, 2009

The Queen of Fibers

I love silk. I love sewing with it, I love touching it, I love wearing it... If I could, I would make all of my bedsheets out of silk and sleep on it. This fascination made me curious about how silk is produced. What follows, is the research I did back in high school about silkworms. It was a presentation I gave orally, and since I've lost my original pictures, these are ones I found on the Internet.

Silk is often referred to as the queen of all fibers. It has been used throughout history to clothe nobility, and was a staple during the era of trade. The discovery of silk was made over 5000 years ago, in China. According to Chinese legend, a princess was out in her garden when the cocoon from a silkworm fell into her tea. The princess was surprised by the thread coming from the cocoon and started pulling, until the cocoon unraveled completely. She then took this extremely fine, but strong thread, and began to weave with it. Such treasured fabric coming from an insect no bigger than a man's finger deserves a closer look. Today I will examine this small creature, how silk is manufactured today, and what its uses are.

The silkworm is not technically a worm; it is the larvae caterpillar of a moth, the scientific name being bombyx mori. There are two main types of silkworms: wild ones and domesticated ones. The main difference between the two is the strength of silk they produce. Wild silkworms produce a low quality of silk, weak and full of "slubs", a word used to describe irregularities in the thread. Domesticated silkworms produce a very high quality silk. Today, they are entirely dependent on humans for reproduction and can not survive in the wild. When the silkworm eggs are first hatched, the larvae is smaller than a grain of rice, but it begins to eat day and night, growing to about two and three-quarters of an inch long. A silkworm's diet consists wholly of mulberry leaves. Each year over 10 billion pounds of leaves are consumed by silkworms worldwide! The young caterpillars molt four times shedding their outer exoskeleton. They then spend 36 hours spinning themselves a cocoon out of raw silk produced in their salivary glands. The cocoon is about one inch long and is yellow in color. This serves to protect the worms during the pupa stage where they transform from a caterpillar to a moth.

The process of harvesting silk has not changed much since its development. In the wild, silk worms remain in their cocoons for three weeks, then they eat through the cocoon and emerge as a white hairy moth. This damages the silk of the cocoon, which is why wild silk is a lower quality. On silk farms, where domestic worms are raised, a small amount of moths are allowed to emerge and reproduce, but the rest are baked to kill the pupa inside. Next, the cocoons are placed in hot water which loosens the gum holding the cocoon together, and the silk is unwound onto large reels. A silkworm's cocoon is made from one single silk thread that is over a mile long, and 1/2500th of an inch in diameter. Ten of these single threads are wound together to form one strong thread that is then used for weaving. It takes over 2000 cocoons to make one pound of silk, and 70 million pounds are produced yearly. Because the process of harvesting domestic silk kills the larvae, silk farmers have come under criticism from animal rights activists. They complain that too many silk worms are killed, and believe that, since artificial silks are available, they should be used instead. In many countries, however, the larvae are not killed unnecessarily, they are cooked and served as a delicacy! The process of harvesting silk is really quite uncomplicated and, though there are silk farms from which to obtain commercial silk, many crafters like to process it in their own home in order to have unique silk for their projects.

The strong and beautiful silk fiber is a triangular prism like structure, which refracts incoming light at different angles; this is what causes silk's shimmering appearance. Silk is an extremely versatile fabric. It is warm in winter and cool in summer. In Japan, silk from 2100 cocoons is used to make one kimono, a traditional Japanese garment. Similarly in India, silk is widely used in the traditional sari. In addition to clothing, silk is used in parachutes, bicycle tires, comforter filling, and artillery gunpowder bags. In ancient times, Mongols used silk as a type of under-armor. Silk was very strong, and its benefit to the soldier was that it stopped arrow penetration. By wearing a silk undergarment the arrow would barely enter into the body, allowing it to be pulled out by tugging on the unbroken silk. Thus there was no contact between the arrowhead and the body. This greatly reduced the number of infected wounds. So you can see, silk is not only prized for it's beauty, but for its functionality as well.
Silk is an amazing fiber used all over the world. 5000 years ago when the Chinese first developed the process of making silk, they tried very hard to keep it a secret from the rest of the world. It did not remain clandestine for long. One legend has it that a Chinese princess smuggled silkworm eggs to Japan by hiding them in her hair! Today Japan is the largest producer of silk in the world, followed by Thailand. Because of their warm climates silk can be produced almost year round. By looking at the life of a silk worm, the process of harvesting silk, and its uses throughout history, we can see why silk is called the queen of fibers.

July 16, 2009

Chemise Dress - Finished!

I've finished it; just in time for a costume party this weekend. More pictures to come soon.

July 15, 2009

Back to School Clothes

I've been working on some back to school clothes, trying to use up fabric from my stash. Amazingly I already had the wool, lining, and buttons for this jacket so I didn't have to spend a cent!

This coat turned out better than I expected. Usually I am disappointed with how modern clothes look and I sell them, but the fit and style of this one were just right.

Although I love the plaid, I would like to make another one in a solid black wool for this winter. My Mom and Sister are both trying to steal this coat, so it looks like I might be making them each one as well!

July 13, 2009

Bleak House Costumes--Other

There is one dress that the housekeeper wore that I thought was interesting. It has the exact same styling as the dress I copied, and the other one Esther wore. Either the costumer loved this style, or it is very common in fashion plates of the era! I'm not sure, but I'm curious.

This concludes the screencaps I took of Bleak House, I hope you enjoyed!

July 12, 2009


...to being the first one in the garden each morning!

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
~Ephesians 5:1-2~

July 11, 2009

Tutu Tales

Because this is primarily a sewing blog, I believe I have neglected to mention that I am also a ballet dancer. After sewing, it is my second main hobby. Right now I am going to do a post entirely on ballet, I'm sorry if you came looking for dresses, and ballgowns, right now I am focused entirely on tutus.

This picture below is me in 2005. Excuse the closed eyes, they were probably plastered that way from all the mascara and eyeliner. Also note the adorable girl next to me, my sister, 5 years younger.

We were dancing in the ballet Giselle and I was one of Giselle's friends. What I'd like you to note is the tutu. See how it fits nicely, and makes me look like a rather well-dressed milkmaid? Yes? Good. Again, take a look at my charming sister! (I wore that same green costume in my first ballet, Swan Lake, at age 9!)

Below is an interesting optical illusion. It is me, four years later (eyes are open this time, thanks to an absence of stage makeup) holding the aforementioned, milkmaid-esque leotard.

You see, I must wear this costume again, in 14 days, for my final ballet performance. Again I am a friend, this time a friend of Swanilda's, in the famous ballet, Coppelia. What puzzles me (and something I have finally decided will never be solved) is that my tutu is now too large. Yes you read that right, it's too large! Either I shrunk, or the costume stretched, but it is now all saggy on me. Velvet leotards are unflattering enough without having them all baggy.

So you see, I suppose I can relate everything--including ballet--back to sewing, for it is now resting on my bed in all it's milkmaid glory, waiting for alterations.

~Happy Sewing

July 09, 2009

Bleak House Costumes--Ada

On of the supporting characters in Bleak house is Ada. She is an orphan living with Mr. Jaundice, and Esther is her companion. She is moderately wealthy and has many lovely gowns. This one below has an interesting shoulder detail that reminds me of 1860's styles. I apologize for the media player which is in most of the screencaps. I haven't had the time to crop it out.

This dress is absolutely stunning. The sheer undersleeves are unusually, and I love all the bodice detail.
Here you can see it a little better.

The back of this dress has such an interesting stripe detail. Thanks to the mirror you can also see that dark blue trim which circles around her neck and comes to a point in front.

Ada is on the right here with her back to us, but my attention was caught by the gathering on the back of her bodice. It mimics the front gathering which is so common during this era.

Here is the front of the dress. Ada somehow managed to have the strangest facial expressions every time I pressed pause!

She wore this dress a lot during the film. The sleeves are beautiful.

This shows the lace collars that were prevalent in the movie.

Here is a closer view, also a good shot of the striped fabric.

I loved this dress because of the way the stripe in the fabric was used. The whole bodice looks pieced together with stripes running all over the place. Unfortunately you can't really see it in this picture, I'm sorry.

And that concludes the dresses of Ada, I hope something may inspire you!

July 08, 2009

Bleak House Costumes--Lady Deadlock

Lady Deadlock is a lovely, wealthy woman, and her clothing reveals that. This green dress is the first one she is seen in, and this picture captures the black trim around the neckline.

And here you can see the bodice front.

Here is another green dress. This is one of my favorites; I love the buttons in front, and the bit of embroidered lace tucked in at the collar.
The same lace also peeks out from the sleeves.
Here is an interesting dinner gown, it is a short sleeved burgundy dress, with sheer (organza?) oversleeves.
Here is a different burgundy dress, with pagoda sleeves and a pleated bodice.

This dress took my breath away when I saw it. I think it is incredible. I love the crisp grey color, and the mock jacket look. It's nice to see Lady Deadlock in something besides green and burgundy!
Here you can see some of the seam in the bodice (in case you want to copy it).
Look at the lace peeking out! Marvelous!

Here is the burgundy dress again, and look at her little mitts.
Is this the same bodice altered? Same skirt different bodice? Or different dress altogether?

Here is her stunning black dress. I have always had the desire to own a black dress, very unpractical I know.
Coming up next... Ada