Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Climbing Out of the Ravine

Every so often I (like most crafters I know) end up in a bit of a rut. Well, this winter has turned into something of a sewing RAVINE for me. Between work and life it's been a crazy few months, and I didn't have a lot of time to sew. I did accomplish a couple of last-minute, rushed dresses for events, but I was dissatisfied with everything. I think part of it was just feeling exhausted (a pretty constant state these days), but a big part was feeling like a terrible seamstress--I never do things properly or well (and they rarely fit in a way I'm happy with) when I have to get a dress done in an evening/all-nighter. So I have a new goal: try to sew when I have time, and do it slowly. If I take the time to make something that makes me happy, it'll be so much better in the long run.

getting sewn in before a ball--this isn't me, but as none of my dresses currently have closures, it's a pretty accurate representation...
But really, I can wax poetic all I want about doing things well or not doing them at all...and the outcome is that I feel even less inspired to whip something together, and haven't sewn a stitch in months. I needed to break the dry spell, and this weekend I finally did. Yay!

Partially fate conspired to help me, and I ended up with a pretty light weekend, scheduling-wise--plus the weather was awful--but I also have a project on the list for an event in May that's half-way between sci-fi costume and historical dress, and the concept of playing with tulle was sparking some much-needed enthusiasm.

So I spent a good portion of Saturday afternoon and a bit of Sunday morning working on a 1950s prom dress. It's not done, but so far it is well-constructed, planned in advance, and I'm a fairy princess ok?!

weekend progress: base cotton circle skirt (finished hem, but not attached at the waist yet), three layers of tulle gathered on and sewn down at the waist in the seam allowance, lining layer of the sweetheart bodice assembled for fitting before I cut the outer layer (same fabric as base)
The bodice needs to be fitted, the outer layer cut and assembled, and then the whole thing finished before I add the tulle to it (I'm hoping to get a bit of that started tonight), and then the waist will get attached to the skirt before I add a sash (butt bows are the best bows)...but the event isn't until the end of the month, so I've got plenty of time!

the very-much-in-progress bodice and close-up of the skirt top. You can see the three tulle layers a bit better here: two (bottom and top) are the same color as the base fabric, while the third (middle) is a lighter blue

just for color checking, the fabric for the sash tied around the waist
I'm feeling a lot better about sewing now, so hopefully I can use this momentum to get permanently out of the sewing ravine, back on flat land, and make some more fabulous things! (slowly and well, of course...)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Weekend at Netherfield

There's something truly special about the Regency Intensive hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers in April (this was our second year of the event). Attendees spend all day in dance classes, followed by an evening dance for more practice, with more class on Sunday morning. By the time the grand ball rolls around on Sunday night, all that torture dancing has created a bond among the group, and it makes the evening feel like you're really in the Regency at a house party for the weekend.
This year was smaller than last year, and almost all of the attendees were there last year too, so it was quite the merry and energetic party! There were also some new faces, who were all lovely and a lot of fun to get to know.

waltzing at the Saturday evening dance
After all that class, it was especially fun to take a break on Sunday afternoon with some period card games, tea, and a theatrical! It also ended up being quite period in our gender segregation...there were historical swords on offer (being demonstrated, at least), so we ended up with almost all the ladies at tea and almost all the gents off other places. Totally accidental! Then everyone came back together to watch the more dramatically inclined perform scenes from The Rivals, by Richard Sheridan. Although the comedy premiered in 1775, it remained popular throughout the Regency period, and was later made into a 1930s musical and a 1950s movie.

watching a scene from The Rivals
 It was a truly wonderful (but totally exhausting!) weekend, and I'm glad I was able to be a part of it. Unfortunately I didn't get many pictures, but only because I was too busy dancing! I am totally ok with that trade-off.

But here's what I did take!

Saturday Evening:

Sunday Afternoon:

French playing cards featuring Napoleon and Josephine

We played Commerce for most of the afternoon. Commerce is a regency-era card game where players take turns trying to create the best possible hand (with three of a kind being the highest) by trading cards from the three they hold with the "widow" (the set of cards face-up on the table). It's a lot of fun!

Sunday night reception and ball:

prepping refreshments

Hamilton Hall has a musicians' balcony--so cool!

obligatory artsy refreshments shot!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Night at the Speakeasy

A few weeks ago, I waved my hair (or made an attempt), rolled my stockings down, and kicked up at the White Lightning Ball hosted by the Greater Boston Vintage Society. It was the bee's knees!

The event took place at the carriage house of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Originally built in 1888, the space was perfect for a speakeasy! Jason, our gracious host, put in a huge amount of effort to build some pieces to add to the atmosphere, including a 20s-style roulette wheel, microphones, and jiggering an original still to run water. The props added a lot, and it was a lot of fun to explore everything the event had to offer.

The carriage house in its heyday
I wore a new-ish 20s evening dress I haven't posted about yet, mostly because it's not done. I used the same shot taffeta as the regency dress I whipped together in February, and it is still fabulously magical stuff. Rather than the straight-rectangle shapes I used for the seersucker dress I made this summer, I tried a trapezoid skirt and cut the waistband on the bias to make it a little clingier. I'm really happy with how right for the 20s the silhouette turned out, and once it's trimmed I may actually like it...20s are so not my period! But if it means great cocktails and a lot of dancing, I'll put up with it.

my new (totally untrimmed) shot taffeta dress
I also tried something new with my hair, aiming for those iconic flapper waves. I used an electric 3-barrel crimper on the front sections, which you can sort of see in the picture above. Unfortunately, once my unruly curls started frizzing (the band was too good not to dance!) the effect was way less noticeable. I have some thoughts (thanks to some great advice--thanks Emily!) on what to try next, so I may have give that a shot sometime soon.

waved hair, candy cigarettes, and a real 1920s slot machine
The event was also sponsored by Bully Boy Distillers, a local whiskey distillery. They provided lovely cocktails, and I recommend the brand if you live in the area.

So without further ado, step into the speakeasy with me!

A tin sign protesting the amendment that outlawed alcohol

This banner was strung across the dance floor--are you a member of the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment?
The fab cigarette girls were handing out candy cigarettes--I didn't know they still made those!
a crooked cop dealing at the blackjack table

betting at the roulette table

bottles by the still
with a Bully Boy cocktail

our crew, posing with a prop Tommy gun at the "photo booth"--I'm not sure who the gun belonged to, but we (along with a lot of other guests) took turns guarding the moonshine. And it was just as heavy as the real thing, so that took some serious muscle! (which might be why I look ready to 'whack' someone in all the pictures where I'm holding it...) that.

There were two fun performances by the Chifferobes, and I snapped this just before they started

end-of-the-night announcements on one of the reproduction microphones
What a grand evening! If you're in the Boston area, you definitely shouldn't miss the next one...Check out the site link above for the details, and I'll see you there!