Since December, I've been intending to post on this blog more regularly, and really use it to support my Div III (short for Division III - the massive senior thesis project I'm now in the last three months of), but it keeps not happening, in large part because I'm not exactly sure how I want to go about it, and I tend to feel a great deal of pressure to do things well and thoroughly (you know, with lots of pictures and so forth). Also, I've been feeling that I should probably move things over to the new blog I set up with the same name on WordPress, which seems to be a more dynamic service than Blogger, and start linking my domain there. By which housekeeping token, I also need to be go through old posts and tidy things up, finish posting about my 1830s sewing independent study last spring, and write informational posts introducing projects, explaining what my Div III is and so forth.
Obviously, I'm overwhelming myself, so updating hasn't been happening. Therefore, I'm making a decision to slow down on worrying about the major updates, old posts, and housekeeping elements, and instead to start writing a post every day summarizing the Div III work I've done that day, and going into more detail if I've found interesting blog posts or made sewing progress - the nitty-gritty details of my harried process of arranging the various elements of my graduate school applications is probably of substantially less interest! Though at the moment, that is occupying a great deal of my time.
In these little daily posts, I'll plan on noting down specific things that I want to write about at greater length later, and linking to any relevant inspiration articles or pages. That way, it keeps track of what I'm up to, and if a faculty member I'm working with or a reader wants to see more on that topic, they can feel free to harass me to get writing! Social pressure works wonders on me.
One very exciting piece of news is that one of my housemates has given me a camera! It's in perfect working order and still has all of its bits and pieces, but she has a newer camera and hasn't used this one for years, so she very generously passed it on to me, knowing that my lack of camera has been proving a genuine hardship in the course of trying to document my work. So now it will be much easier to actually document what I've made, and even get some tutorials up! There is hope for the future!
Currently, I'm working on selecting supplies for two bonnets (late 1830s and mid 1860s), which will be ordered from three different sources (whew) via the Social Venture Fund which awarded me a grant to partially fund my Div III. My goal was to have all of my supplies purchased by the end of January, but finances and general complexity foiled that plan, so now I'm just trying to get it taken care of as soon as possible.
Also, I'm spending some time investigating various historical costuming blogs and sites for further inspiration and resources. I'm on something of a desperate hunt for historical costuming resources that are simultaneously oriented toward academic research and actual construction. I know of some, but I'm always on the hunt for more - especially for articles that relate specifically to things I'm working on, and concepts I'm interested in. So I'd love to get recommendations for more blogs, sites, and so forth. I just ran across a couple lovely ones today that I can't believe I'd never heard of today!
On which note - I'm thinking a lot about the copyright, fair use, and citation issues that are wrapped up on historical costuming. This comes up a lot for me, and I'm always uncertain how it works. Today, I ran across a very interesting article on just this subject, "Museum Photos and Taking Photos in Museums - Copyright, Fair Use, Public Domain" on American Duchess, a glorious blog I have just discovered via The Dreamstress. I'd like to look into this issue more, so I think I'll have a go at using my college's resources to get other opinions and input. Maybe someone can track down a copyright lawyer to give me input, since after all, it relates to my Div III. I'll also need to get in contact with Old Sturbridge Village to ask for permission to re-post their images from their online collection (because I've used several of their items for reproduction), and photos I took while visiting Collections there, and also to inquire about permission to post a tutorial on making a version of a needlebook in their collection - though in point of fact I'm not even entirely sure if I need permission for that last, especially since my reproduction was made only using photographs on their website, not a visit. However, I'd like to use their images, and it at least seems like good manners to ask! But if I can go in with some real information about fair use, I think it would be much easier to manage altogether. We shall see.
In sewing related news...
I have functionally finished a reproduction red wool cloak (c. mid 18th century through early 19th century), with absurd amounts of piecing and many many tiny stitches. It needs ribbons to close it at the neckline, but I need to wait until I can order silk ribbons for that, and it needs the arm slits cut, but I want to wait on that until I have the ribbon closures on, so I know exactly how the cloak actually sits while in use. The slits are literally just that, without any evidence of finishing or binding on the original - so it will finish up in no time at all once I have the ribbon! The cloak is an almost-exact reproduction of the one in the Costume Close-Up book from Colonial Williamsburg, except with more piecing, because I didn't have enough fabric, but couldn't afford to buy more and desperately wanted to go through with the project. I used a thick (coating weight) red wool flannel for the main fabric, and black silk habotai for the hood lining and front facings, both of which I already had. I drafted the pattern myself, in large part directly on the fabric with a piece of chalk, which made me feel very historical indeed. I used the fabric down to the last teeny tiny scraps, so it was extremely efficient, in a way that would have been thrifty in the 18th century (I think! It's not exactly my period of specialty), but would mystify/horrify most modern seamstresses. I enjoyed the adventure, and soon I will have a very exciting cloak to flounce about it. As soon as it has ribbons, I will arrange a photoshoot in our exceedingly snowy New England woods and post pictures. (Assuming that the Big Bad Wolf doesn't catch up to me first....ahem.)
Corsets are my big sewing project at the moment. I'm working on a set of late 1830s stays for myself, of white cotton sateen lined with white cotton twill, which will be mostly corded with just a bit of boning, which will involve some fancy whitework embroidery, and which I will most likely entirely hand-sew. Once I've figured out that tricky corsetry seam of the period, which was used on almost all of the sets of stays in Collections at OSV (oh, examining all the stays! That was wonderful), and which I simply cannot figure out from the directions in The Workwoman's Guide. It looks like a plain seam on the outside, but on the inside it has a raised ridge which is bumpy between little stitches. If I can figure this business out, I will make a video of it for posterity! Anyone have any clues?
Anyway! In the department of corsetry, I am also working on a set of early-to-mid 1860s stays for myself, which will be made of bright coral colored cotton sateen, with a simple white twill lining, and possibly also an interlining (flat-lined to the outer coral layer) of more twill, to strengthen the corset, since my figure needs substantial support. I've cut pieces for mock-ups of both of these corsets (though I missed a couple a gussets and need to go back in and cut them), based on pattern pieces I drafted from duct tape mock-ups. I discovered in the corset-making class that I taught over January Term that duct tape draping for corsets can work incredibly well, resulting in perfectly fitting corset patterns much faster than starting with a commercial pattern. The sheer variation in the human form is incredible, and commercial patterns simply can't account for it. Plus, when you do duct tape draping, you can look at the model's body and determine exactly where the seam-lines ought to be for aesthetics and shaping, and mark grainlines based on where that person needs support. It's extremely dynamic, and I'm hoping to write a series of posts, and perhaps even offer videos, on how to go through this process. It does help to have books like Norah Waugh's and Jill Salen's in order to get a sense of how the pieces of original corsets were shaped, but then you can go from there.
Rounding out my adventures in corsetry, I'll also be doing a mock-up soon of an 1870s style corset, based on a commercial pattern, because I want to explore that angle as well. This is for one of my friends, and it will be the second lavender sateen 1870s corset of my Div III! I made another, based on duct tape draping, for a different friend last semester, as part of her Halloween costume. I think that the two together, along with the corsets for myself, will present a very interesting set for comparison and contrast. I'm learning so much about corsetry, and I'll be documenting that research a few different ways, including, hopefully soon, a post with links to useful tutorials elsewhere on the internet, which I've been bookmarking for years now.
And now that I've written really rather a lot of post, full of various scattered updates, I will stop writing and go back to consulting various blogs, and actively fretting over the difficulties of my transcript, which I need to send out tomorrow for a grad school application, and which seems to still have things missing. Sigh. More panicked emails to send? Most likely!