Friday, April 30, 2010

Why yes, I do dabble in many, many things

Including jewellery-making, when the urge strikes.
While looking around Pearl Paint for my felt, I happened upon a wonderful green cameo in a metal setting that looks like pewter or slightly tarnished silver, and a package of nine transparant, plumbbob-shaped purple beads with wonderfully intricate end caps and wire loops at either one end or both. The combination of these two things demanded to be made into a necklace, so I bought the cameo and the set of beads for around $7 total. As I hunted in the basement for my pliers, which I'd need to fasten the purple beads to my chain, I unearthed a few unexpectedly wonderful things. Most importantly and unexpectedly, a pair of metal hoops with vinelike loops for attaching earring hooks and dangly beads. I'd had them tucked away for ages without finding any good use for, and they match the design on the cameo setting extraordinarily well. I also discovered a few more modern-looking beads in the same shade of green as the cameo, a ribbon, my trusty  needle-nose and flat-tip pliers, and enough silver head and eye pins to attach everything together. Before the night was over, I had designed and created an updated Victorian necklace and earring set, which I love. (Especially after seeing it in photographs!)
The green ribbon and cameo can easily be removed from the silver chain without having to remove the purple beads or even use a pliers, so if I ever need to adapt it to more period-correct costuming, it won't be a problem at all.

I can't remember the last time I was this pleased with jewellery I made. I think I've worn it every day since I made it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Make that, "I tip my fancily adorned hat to you."


Inspired by House of Nines design, I made my first cockade tonight to go with my felt tricorne-in-the-making. I bought the ribbon at M&J Trimmings, in Manhattan. It cost about $7 total for a yard of each, which seems very reasonable considering what the ribbons became. Next time (now that I know there will be a next time), I'll try two yards, and go for a fuller cockade. The button in the center was originally meant for the frock coat, until I started using the shantung. The color works quite well with the rest of the cockade, and I somehow prefer this simple, self-covered button to one of the fancier ones available. I'll save fancy for later.
Finishing the entire cockade took approximately 4 hours.

Until the hat is finished, meaning until Pearl Paint restocks my large pieces of felt, the cockade will have to content itself with being stuck onto bags and the occasional lapel.

Oh, and an added bonus...
... It matches the frock coat very well. (Better than this picture makes it seem.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

I tip my hat to you...

Or I would, if it had a brim.
I embarked on making a tricorne a few weeks ago, and its production is now stalled because Pearl Paint has my felt out of stock, and doesn't expect more for a few weeks. I've made the crown though, which in my opinion looks pretty good for a first attempt at haberdashery.

Here's my "hat block." Adapting some online instructions, I measured the circumference of my head, then padded a mixing bowl with paper towels til it had the same measurement. Tape the towels to each other and to the bowl every once in a while to stop your "block" from changing shape, and then cover the whole thing in plastic wrap when it's the right size. For good measure tape the plastic wrap down too.

Here's where I made a substantial mistake - instead of stretching the felt and pinning it, I for some reason thought one could pull the felt down a bit and brush it into a domed shape, agitating the material to make it shrink and re-form as a favorite wool sweater that shrinks in the wash. Maybe my felt wasn't high enough quality ($5 for a 1yd x 2yds piece), or maybe brushing for shape is simply a bad idea. Either way, I realized after a few days of brushing (bordering on over-brushing) that I had to re-check my source.
The hat looks quite good above, because I was stretching it without intending to. All the excess felt around the edges is stuffed inside the crown and down into the glass that acted as my stand.

Before confirming the instructions, I experimented with hat styles:
I'm still unsure whether I'll end up with a traditional tricorne or with some more modern variation. It'll be easier to tell once I get my brim piece on.

I ended up taking the felt off, rewetting it and stretching it over the block as nature intended. The only problem with using a pyrex bowl other than a styrofoam wig rest (other than the lack of it having a stand) (I used a tall but sturdy drinking glass) is that you bend quite a few pins before you figure out what angles are safe to stab at with relatively frail bits of metal.

The result:
A hat squid.

More on the hat later, and its accessory.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ze coat, she is feeneesht! (Almost)

That's right. This coat, which I've been working on for months than I'd like to count, is nearly finished! All the machine-sewing is finished, unless I decide to sew the buttonholes with the machine. All the major handsewing bits are done as well, the linings all turned under and the raw edges neatly hidden. What's left now is to sew the buttons on, probably add more embellishments in my wonderfully shiny silk shantung, and then grab up the courage to actually wear the coat some time.

Also, I've decided to try my hand at haberdashery and shoe re-covering. What internet blog-surfing can inspire me to do never ceases to amaze me.
For the hat, I plan to make a modernized tricorne suitable for daily wear from mid-fall to early spring. It'll be done in black felt, and I'll probably make a few clip-on cockades to attach or leave off depending on the occasion.
The shoes will be done in a light cream fabric, possibly silk, but most likely whatever inexpensive remnant I can find that would suit a shoe. I was chatting with my voice teacher this past week and mentioned that I plan to rework some shoes, and she said that it would be a wonderful idea for me to make myself a pair of character shoes. Plain, this pair will look 1700s, but I'll make some clips and bows and buckles to add if I'm acting the part of another period (or a higher class). Just when I thought I couldn't love opera any more, I find that it's a legitimate excuse to pursue costuming on the side. Meraviglioso!

Here's some hat progress -- exciting, right?

The shoes are a bit more satisfying to look at, at this point. There's one original shoe, on the left, and the shoe I've been deconstructing, scattered around the rest of the frame.
I'd rather do the hat first because I love the idea of not having to sew anything for a while, but it would be wonderful to have the shoes finished in time for this weekend's concert. Vedremo.

Oh, and yesterday my Italian genetics suddenly reared their tricolore heads, and I cooked my first real, fancy-style planning-ahead meal for myself. Sliced and fried (on the stove, in olive oil) eggplant with freshly cooked semi-saucelike grape tomatoes (sliced and cooked in olive oil with a bit of garlic powder) that were hot enough to partially melt the smoked mozzarella sitting between the sauce and the eggplant. To excuse this deviation from my normal crafty pursuits, yes, I took pictures.