Monday, November 30, 2009

Undiscovered gems

Now and again, a perfectly swell pattern gets overlooked. Such as this one.

It's a great little late '50s suit (1958, to be precise), in a great size (38" bust!), the envelope's in great shape, and it's cheap because it's missing the skirt pieces. But the skirt, to be perfectly blunt, is not the interesting part of this pattern. Dozens of other simple straight skirt patterns could be substituted, and no one would be any the wiser. No, the interesting bits are all in the top and the jacket - i particularly love that immense, fabulous collar. And as impractical fashion details go, it's probably a lot less troublesome than most...

I know the cover art is overwhelmingly pink. I promise you don't have to sew it in pink if you don't want to. Go take a look.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Indulgence du jour

Fondly remembering the Dagoba chocolate bar that used to be available in a "chai" flavor, i added to my cocoa some cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves (just a pinch), and a tiny hint of black pepper. It's pretty darn tasty.

It's also gotten a little 17th century ditty stuck in my head:

Nose, nose, nose, nose
And who gaue thee that iolly red nose?
Sinamont, & Ginger,
Nutmegs & Cloues
And that gaue thee thy iolly red nose

It's actually the second verse of "Of all the birds" by Thomas Ravenscroft, who published a number of music books - mostly part songs, in the early parts of the 17th century.

This is what comes of being a musician and a history geek.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A mystery...

Got this in a big box o' patterns, and i'm trying to pin it down, so far without notable success. It's an old pajamas-and-slippers pattern from Sears, but is not a "Superior" issue - looks more like a mail order pattern, and is in a funky, narrow, printed wax paper envelope. The search continues, but if you've got any leads, i'd be grateful if you shared them... it's such a fun little pattern!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reconstructive Archaeology

Over the summer, my friend Nick called up and said, "I've got a gig in France in August, and i need a set of medieval clothes for it. Can you help?"

(I wish to point out that i've never gotten a gig in France. If you've got one you need filled, just let me know.)

Nick, in a former life, worked at Colonial Williamsburg, and he knew i had worked at Jamestown, for the costume director there (the unpaid internship that ate my life... and the most fun i've ever had at a job). Nick also knew that i have lots of background in medieval history. So this wasn't entirely random.

Time was short, so i agreed to make a tunic and hood, lend what accessories i could, and he would fake the rest. He needed to look late 14th to early 15th century, and suitable for a musician, so i thought immediately of the Bocksten Man and the Herjolfsnes finds. I settled on the Bocksten tunic and one of the hoods from the Norlund report. Happily, like a lot of ethnic and historical clothing, the Bocksten tunic has a very geometric construction, which makes it fairly easy to grade. Since Nick is very tall, this was an important consideration...

Took measurements and borrowed a shirt for comparison, made a muslin, checked the fit, made notes on the changes, cut out the final version, and hit the mark almost perfectly on the tunic. The hood was more painful (although it came out alright in the end). We'll have a confessional on that some other time...

I learned a few things along the way. The Bocksten Man was quite a bit taller than i'd expected, and the tunic hemline hung quite a bit lower than many garments i'd seen that were supposed to be based on that tunic. And - a detail i'd never seen in any of the redrawings, but which is plain when you look at the photos of the tunic pieces - there is a distinct, curved armscye. The top of the sleeve is cut straight, but the body of the tunic has a curve inward where the sleeve fits into it. Makes the shoulder lie nicely, and i suspect, rather improves mobility.

So, the finished product? Here (Nick apologizes for the non-period spectacles, but does need to see in order to play)... :

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What you don't get with a current pattern...

Consider this dress.

Yawn. A shirtwaist.

But wait - not just a shirtwaist. Look at the version on the left. First off, 3/4 length sleeves, which are both flattering and practical. They often crop up in 1950s patterns, but they're hard to come by now. And then, that curious little button-and-tab collar. Adds interest - it's enough but not too much. And then, we come to the pockets...

Pockets are essential. Would you go to the bother of sewing a dress, and then have nowhere to put you keys? No, neither would i. And these pockets, they are roomy, and they are stylish, with the shaped edges. And then, and then! - the button-and-tab motif is picked up with the band at the top of the pockets.

This is delightful stuff. This dress could be done in a perfectly plain fabric, and stand out just on the basis of the construction details. None of it is hard to sew, it's not fussy or complicated. It's just swell. And if you added the tiny touch of some really wonderful buttons to those details? Brilliant.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Coming Attractions

Just a quick preview of patterns that i'll be listing soon on Etsy... i'll probably spend some time this evening checking, counting, researching, and pricing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In which thanks are rendered

Not one, but two blog posts about Fripperie (by folks other than myself) appeared in the last week! There's a pattern (and Erin picked a nice one, too...) in a gallery, here. And then a profile at Perfectly Paper where Kelly says kind things about the shop and selection... thanks to both!

On top of which, i had a sale to my first repeat customer today, which was exciting - must be doing something right, if people come back and buy again!

So i'll wander happily off to prepare more patterns for sale, and maybe manage to take some pictures of the Experimental Dance Knickers for a future post.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Well, the Showcase thing seems to be driving some traffic, and i sold the first Showcase-featured pattern before 8:00 this morning. Better yet, the customer bought a second pattern at the same time! This is the one i pulled for the Showcase:

Gorgeous, isn't it? Copyright 1949, very New Look. It came pretty close to going into the personal stash, i'll admit. It's gone, but there are others...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I like to dance. A lot. Enthusiastically, and in full skirts (if it doesn't have a four-yard hem, why bother?)... so i end up wearing something underneath, usually bike shorts. Bike shorts are unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. They rarely stay put, and it's hard to find them in natural fibers, that last being really essential for dancing, because it gets hot in a hurry, no matter the season or the weather. (Yes, i've tried the allegedly-wicking synthetics; no luck - still feels like wearing petrochemicals.)

So i'm adapting an old pants pattern - huzzah for 25-cent patterns at the thrift store, cheap enough to slice and dice! - to make something that's kind of a quick-and-dirty version of an Edwardian set of drawers. Decided to skip the shaped waistband and try a drawstring, at least for the experimental phase... and i got the first prototype pulled off the back burner and cut out tonight.

I have to make sure the tinkering i've done to the pattern doesn't do anything really funky to the assembly process, and suspect that part ought to wait until i've had some sleep. I don't want another Norlund hood d├ębacle (i'll tell that sad tale of woe in another post...). Hope to soon have pictures and reports on field-testing.