Sunday, 7 June 2020

A regency reticule - or what else can you do while the museums are closed?

You might ask now: A reti-what?

Quoting Wikipedia:
reticule, also known as a ridicule or indispensable, was a type of small handbag or purse, similar to a modern evening bag, used mainly from 1795 to 1820.[1] According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the name "reticule" came from the French réticule, which in turn came from the Latin reticulum, a diminutive of rete, or "net".[2]
Clear now? Good.

 In my search for exciting new things to do with my embroidery machine, I came across SewStine's Etsy store, where she is selling the embroidery designs she digitized for her own historical costumes. Most of them are hopelessly beyond the capabilities of my humble combined hobby machine, but one especially caught my eye: the design for an embroidered reticule as a reproduction of an original in the Rijksmuseum. And it did fit into my machine's embroidery frame, yay!

My local patriotism (after all, the Rijksmuseum is only about 200m away and entertains me several times per hour with its bells) immediately kicked in, and as I do have a Regency outfit somewhere on my To-Sew-List anyway I figured I should do what you do with any important project and start with the least important part. 

The embroidery design stitched out really nicely and took about 2 hours, including the 24 colour changes I had to do - this kind of elaborate design is just a lot easier to do on a multi-needle dedicated embroidery machine. Unfortunately my machine does not cut jump stitches (when the needle moves from one part of the design to the other) automatically, so I also had to do a lot of snipping threads in between. Definitely worth the effort though.
I used some silks scraps that I still had lying around and the Brother polyester embroidery thread that I got with my machine. It is lined with linen that was left over from the Italian Gown I am making at the moment as well (still need to write something about that).

Sewstine documented her own version of the reticule here on youtube, but being the smartass that I am I went back to the documentation of the original item in the Rijksmuseum archives, and according to the description the bag is made of 4 parts, and not 2 - admittedly, that is really not visible in the archive picture and the description is only in Dutch. The back side has the same embroidery, although I changed the colour of the little ribbon. The side parts are plain (according to the description they are embroidered on the original as well though), have the same shape as front and back and are folded inwards.

I also needed a cord as drawstring and found some very discounted embroidery floss in a matching brown colour. Someone suggested Lucet braiding to me, which incidentally would also be more or less period accurate. I do not own a lucet though - so instead of sacrificing a fork for it, I improvised one out of my partner's Lego :).

The original has acorns with tassels attached to the points of the bag, but being a bit seasonally challenged in the acorn-department I used some beads instead that I still had in my stash. I think I still need to work on the closure mechanism as well. There is a "schuifring" on the original that I could not quite wrap my head around before, now having the reticule in my hand I think I understand how it's supposed to work.

While working on it I was listening to the first book of The Laundry Files, The Atrocity Archives, which is also partially set inside the archives of the Rijksmuseum. Funny coincidence, they did not mention coming across any embroidered antique bags though :)

And of course I had to snap a picture in front of the Rijksmuseum!

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Sewcial Distancing - or how I tried to stop worrying and revived my blog

Let's get some life back into this old blog.

I am writing this in June 2020 and I guess it is needless to say that the past several months have been interesting - in a very boring kind of way. The kind of interesting that might seem okay to read about in a history book, but actually living through it is just tedious, draining and nerve-wrecking.

3 months and counting in more or less quarantine, with a large part of social life being eliminated have put quite a toll on the more outgoing part of my personality. Although I am, as I am perfectly aware, in a very privileged situation as in that I am able work from home, was able to keep my job and do not have any children to take care of.
Still, this situation does have considerable mental health impact on me and I am grateful that I have a productive hobby that allows me to switch into introvert mode so I can keep myself busy and distracted. The fact that I bought a new, expensive, fancy sewing machine in the week before Covid-19 hit the Netherlands was a very lucky coincidence and so I found my sewing mojo again and now have project after project lined up.
Occupational therapy, I guess.

I enjoy sharing my sewing progress and projects on Insta and connecting with other makers this way, but as a platform it is not exactly made for writing extensive texts and I do miss documenting my projects properly. And I miss writing. It's a sort of egotrip. I do admire people who keep up journal writing, my attempts always failed.

Let's see what this blogging attempt brings.

Meanwhile, feel free to browse through the feed of my (comparatively new) sewing Instagram account:

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Pattern Review: Harlots&Angels Asylum High-Backed Adventurer's Corset

I've had this pattern in my pattern drawer for a while now, but never really came around to making it. I bought it around 2011, together with a hat pattern & kit, because I liked the high back and had always wanted to make a vest corset.
It's a rather modern corset pattern, targeted mostly at Steampunk costumers.

Originally I had wanted to use an asia-style jacquard with butterflies that has been waiting in my fabric boxes for a project to come along for more than 10 years now...but at the moment I quite like wearing shiny non-fabrics like leather or PVC, so I picked a pseudo-snakeskin-patent-leather to work with. For lining and strenght, I chose a plain cotton coutil and doubled the patent leather with cotton drill. I still had some buckles salvaged from an old pair of boots (never throw anything away!) and only had to order some more steel.

And of course, this was another project for WGT.

The design and layout of the pattern and instructions are not well done at all. All illustrations are drawn by hand and not always clear, especially when it comes to the part how the boning channels are constructed. Some printed instructions are cut off by the layout so that only the upper half of the line is printed, which makes it unreadable. At some points this has been corrected by hand - quite sloppy.

There is no clear indication about how much sewing allowance is included. Apparently, for most seams it is 2cm, for some others 1.5cm or 0.5cm. For me, that makes the whole process quite error-prone.

If following the instructions, the corset busk is sewn in in a way I've never seen before using button holes - I preferred to stick to my usual method. However, I've heard from others that this method works well.  Actually I did that for most part of the corset: I just stuck to my usual corset construction method to put everything together.
What was very annoying was that some pattern pieces don't match up. One of the two pieces is simply longer and there are no notches or any other markers on the seamlines to indicate how the pieces are supposed to fit together.
I also made some modifications on the straps: the part facing the neckline was supposed to be hemmed with bias tape. I preferred to sew upper fabric and lining together and turn them inside out.

The fit of the bottom half, the actual corset, is okay for me, but I wonder if the upper part was designed for a Valkyrie or professional swimmers (mind you, with a 50cm waist). The shoulders were around 10cm too wide for me and I had to cut away a lot, the back parts were way too long and probably designed for someone at least 1,75 tall.
The way it is cut is not designed for much waist reduction, the way it is curved it will probably exert a lot of pressure on the lower ribs as well - not really comfortable.

All in all, I'm not sure if the pattern saved me much time. I had to modify so much, I might have just as well taken one of my existing corset patterns and extended it at the back. I definitely cannot recommend this pattern, especially not for beginners who do not know how to adapt a pattern to fit well. Harlots and Angels seems to have quite a wide range of patterns and for that I would have expected a much more professional product. I am aware that creating a pattern in a range of sizes takes a lot of work - but I've sewn patterns from non-professionals that were of a much higher quality.

However, I do like my result. The patent leather I used is notoriously tricky to work with, as you can't really use pins or undo seams without leaving behind holes in the fabric. I mostly used Wonder Clips for keeping the fabric together, that worked quite well. But the material behaved very nicely, and the corset turned out very neat and, once I had modified the pattern, very well-fitting. On the mannequin there's quite a lot of wrinkling in the fashion fabric, on myself it's not as bad.
I am especially proud of how neat the bias tape turned out, barely any seams are visible :)
At WGT, with a Halo and a fishtail skirt I made ages ago. The outfit was intended to be completely different, but the cold weather completely crossed my plans.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Sewing for WGT: The Knipmode Corset

The previously posted neck corset was of course part of a larger outfit I made for Wave Gotik Treffen this year. I had been itching to finally make another corset (not that I have much opportunity lately to wear one...) ever since I had ordered engraved corset busks from Vanyanis in Australia.

The Dutch sewing magazine Knipmode had in its November 2015 issue a corset pattern with hip gores that I really wanted to try out. The pattern was part of the collection of the winning team of the dutch version of The Great British Sewing Bee (or something along these lines, if I understood it correctly) and all of the designs, most of them using patent leather and black fabrics, went straight into my To-Sew-List.
The corset pattern is an overbust corset and I had only made 2 of those so far, and both of them weren't exactly a success when it came to fitting: the first one turned out too small around the bust, the second one had way too much space, requiring me to add A LOT of padding thus giving me monster-boobs.

First step: make a mock-up. And just as expected, even though I cut the smallest size, the mock-up turned out way too big, especially at the waist. I guess because the pattern is targeted at a fairly mainstream audience, you can't really intend it for tightlacing anyway. And since the dutch sizes tend to run bigger than usual sizes (what with dutch girls being generelly quite tall and broad-shouldered), the size 34 came with a 62 cm waist. My natural waist is 64cm, so I ended up taking away around 10cm around the waist. I also added some length to the bust, so I could change the upper edge into a slightly more dramatic shape.

Since I didn't want any external boning channels like the corset in the magazine had, I constructed the corset in my usual manner and sewed the boning channels to the inside of the coutil lining. I prepared the upper layer from silk fused to a strong cotton fabric, and then inserted the busk:

Next, I topstitched along all of the seams on the outer layer, to connect it with the coutil lining. And then the trouble started. When I had

I don't know what happened - probably my seams weren't exact enough, my changes in the pattern introduced some errors, I maybe didn't cut the fabric exact enough. I don't know. But the corset had so many bumps and wrinkles when I first put it on, that I suffered from a minor nervous breakdown. So I left it for several days in the corner where I had thrown it and did something else.

This is not how it's supposed to look like.
Eventually, I unpicked some of the topstitching, carefully repinned everything, and could eliminate at least some of the wrinkles. I had planned a lace overlay for the corset anyway, so some of my errors are less obvious now that they're covered with lace.

The lace overlay took some work in arranging and careful symmetrical pinning to the corset. And of course, lots of handsewing.

About the pattern and instructions:
The instructions in the magazine are very detailed, with recommendations for material and clear illustrations about what you're supposed to do. I didn't really follow them, but I probably should have at least read them a little more thoroughly (the recommendation to *first* sew in the hip gore parts, *then* close the side seams would have made my life a lot easier, I think).
My one issue with this pattern is with the fit: It really runs quite big and does not give such a nice shape in its original state. I like corsets with hip gores as they tend to have a rather large hip spring, but if there is no reduction whatsoever around the waist, the whole affair resembles more a barrel-shape than the hourglass you want to have.
The bust area, however, fits really well. I did add some foam cups inside to give me a nicer cleavage.
I think I could still have taken away more width from the corset, at the moment I can easily close it fully and it could really fit a little more snugly.

Sadly, WGT this year was so horribly cold, that I could only wear my outfit without a jacket for the 2 minutes it took to take this picture. I'm wearing it with a skirt I made a couple of years ago, and a headdress I made for Castlefest last year.
I may still embroider some beads or flowers onto the lace to give it some more bling - but without any opportunities to wear it coming up, I don't have any pressure for this...
Eventually I also want to make a matching skirt - I still have plenty of silk and lace here. I might have managed to throw something together before the festival, but with such a beautiful and expensive material, I really didn't want to risk another disaster :)

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Pattern Review: Neck Corset by Ralph Pink

Wave Gotik Treffen is coming up and I need something new and pretty to wear! I have 2 outfits planned, both of them with a corset, and while waiting for supplies to arrive I spontaneously added a matching neck corset to one of the outfits.
I had expected having to draft my own pattern but when googling for instructions I quickly came across this pattern by Ralph Pink. Buying, downloading and printing it took me barely 10 minutes.

The PDF instructions describe in detail how to set up your printer to print the pattern in the correct size, as well as how to cut the pattern pieces. An introduction to all sewing techniques you would need is also included and all steps are illustrated with very clear computer drawings.
The instructions require you to cut 3 sets of pattern pieces: 2 sets out of the strength layer (coutil), 1 set out of the fashion fabric.
According to the instructions the fashion fabric should then be padstitched onto one set of the strength layer pieces - but as padstitching is a lot of work and I cannot really imagine doing it with a fabric as thin as silk taffeta, I reverted to my usual method of joining fabric layers for corsets: I used Vliesofix, which is a sort of double-sided fusible interfacing usually used for appliqués. It comes mounted on paper and is first ironed onto the fabric, then the paper is removed and leaves behind an adhesive layer on the fabric. With this adhesive layer the fabric can then be ironed onto another fabric.
Fashion fabric after I had ironed on some of the Vliesofix parts.

When you remove the paper, a rubber-like layer stays behind on the fabric
Prepared pattern pieces.

The pattern has only 0.5cm seam allowance included, which I personally find a little fiddly to work with, but as I was too lazy to add additional seam allowance that was what I worked with.

First look after I had joined the individual layers
The boning channels are marked clearly on the pattern and are sewn through all of the layers, although to me it seems like a lot of bones for such a small garment that will never be subject to any tightlacing. 15 bones! I have some regular corsets that do not have that much boning! It does give a nice look though and the bones help in maintaining the shape. I'll have to see how comfortable that is when wearing it for a longer time.

Complete with boning channels

Next, to match the corset I was going to make, I handstitched lace to the corset.

And finally I finished everything off with bias binding, added the grommets and laced it up.

You can maybe see in the pictures that it turned out a little too high around the neck - I hope that won't give me any sores in the long run and I also hope that the boning in the front maybe bends a little more over time, so that it gets more comfortable.

All in all, I can only recommend this sewing pattern. The shape is a little more unusual than most neck corsets I found online and can be adapted for a variety of designs. I found pictures of some versions in leather that also looked very good.
With a price of 9€ some people may consider it to be a bit on the pricy side for such a small project. I still think it was worth it - I really like the way it turned out and it did save me some time for pattern drafting and having to think about construction myself.

Next up: the matching overbust corset. Stay tuned...

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Gala Nocturna 2016 - The Age of Redemption

Same procedure as every year...
Beginning of March means it's time for Gala Nocturna! This year it moved to Ghent, a welcome change from Brussels last year (such a hideous city!) and Antwerp (didn't really need to go there for a third time...).

I was not too enthusiastic when the motto was announced some time late last year. "The Age of Redemption" just didn't evoke any ideas or pictures whatsoever. The moodboards didn't help either. The women's outfits were either boring or impossible to achieve (at least for me) haute couture outfits, while the inspiration for the men's outfits could probably best be described as "homeless Hipster Jedi-Priest". Oh well, at least everybody would be able to recycle their halo headdresses from 3 years ago ("The Pope's Daughter").
Nevertheless, I didn't cancel my pre-booked hotel room. After all, decent goth-dark-romantic parties are rare up here, I wanted to see Ghent and there would at least be some friends from back home and all around Germany coming. And so far I've never stuck to the Gala's theme anyway.

Turns out, Ghent is really lovely, almost as pretty as Amsterdam (but a lot smaller). Over the centuries they seem to have filled the city with as many churches, chapels, cathedrals and monasteries as possible, and it's rather impressive to turn a corner and find yet another gothic cathedral when walking through the city. Several rivers flow through the city centre and the waterside cafes invite to indulge in the holy trinity of belgian guilty pleasures: Mussels, Frietjes, Waffels. Preferably sitting outside in the sun, of which we luckily got to see quite a lot during the weekend.

Gravensteen castle, major tourist attraction
In the end I decided to wear the Victorian Mourning Dress that I had made just before last year's WGT. I had only worn it only on one day for a photoshoot and apart from that mostly spent said day sitting in Cafés and in our appartment sipping wine, so that dress definitely needed to be taken out again. I did want  at least one new piece though, so I made at least a quick new headdress and a matching boutonniere-like thing to pin onto my boyfriends jacket (I think this is the closest we've ever come to matching outfits).

Befitting the theme, the location for the Gala this year was the Augustijnenklooster in Ghent, an old monastery, where monks are still living and working and apparently also brewing beer. Long hallways with ancient paintings, wooden furniture and antique chandeliers created quite a noble atmosphere, but also made me anxious to walk around with a drink in my hand (what if I stumble and spill it onto the painting?!). Having seen pictures of the monastery before, I just found it a pity that the library was not open.

The largest of the monastery's halls was dedicated to the dance floor, however, the room was carpeted and quite badly ventilated so that towards the end of the evening the air got sweaty, humid and stale, ugh. Dancing was not much fun. Also, the historical dance instructor was missing this year, I guess that also had to do with everything being focused on Redemption *yawn*

Other than the Concert Noble in Brussels last year, the place was not crammed with vendor stalls and there was plenty of seating space to rest weary feet. The buffet was stocked with mostly simple items, bread, various cheese, apples and grapes and was constantly refilled during the evening. I definitely prefer a simple but full buffet over a fancy but scarce one...

The other two halls were dedicated to a video installation, "Casting Jesus", that I didn't watch because... well, I wanted to go to a ball and not an art show and to an "interactive praying installation" that I did not really understand. I guess everybody else felt the same, because I never saw more than a handful of people in any of these rooms. Most guests remained in the hallways talking to friends or gathered around the buffet.

All in all I have to say, the Gala Nocturna this year did not feel like a ball at all. It ranged somewhere between a cocktail reception and an art show, but the dancing and all the rest of the programme was definitely missing. I would even say it was simply boring, nothing new happened all night long. Where were the living statues, the ballet dancing, stage combat and all the other little diversions that created such a fascinating atmosphere during the last editions?

The organisation however was immaculate. No queues at the entry, the wardrobe, the bars, or the buffet, professional security personnel (not that you would need much security on this sort of event). No confusion with QR codes on your printed ticket and ticket order numbers. Organisation-wise, the Gala has definitely grown up.
Only too bad that this was the last event under the name of Gala Nocturna. Viona, the organiser, announced several weeks ago that after 10 years it would be time for something new. It remains to be seen what this "something new" will be. I myself hope for a summer ball - why do these sort of things always have to happen when it's cold?

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Where to eat and drink in Amsterdam

So, since I've found myself re-writing the same recommendations to several Amsterdam visitors, I'm now trying to gather all of my personal favorites here on the blog. I'll start off with my recommendations for eating and drinking -  because, if I were visiting another city, thats the first thing I'd want to know.

Sadly, going out for food is quite expensive here. I'm really missing the student pubs we had back home, where you could get a cheap meal for under 5€, whereas here even a simple portion of Spaghetti with Pesto will easily cost you 15€.
Fortunately, there are at least *some* exceptions, that will at least give you a good value for money and I've sacrificed a lot of my personal time to research the best places for going out here :) Will try to update this post from time to time, as I discover new places.

Los Pilones
Mexican food in 3 locations in Amsterdam (I recommend the Jordaan branch), best Margaritas, good food although portions could be slightly bigger.

Pazzi Pizza
Best. Pizza. Ever. 14€ per pizza, which seems to be the usual price for Amsterdam, seems very steep, but here it's definitely worth it. If I had to live on their Pizza Boscaiola for the rest of my life, I really wouldn't mind. Mostly takeout, with some small tables in the back, where you can have Antipasti or Tiramisu with your pizza. I've never been to the second location in Oud-West though, which is more of a restaurant.

De Twee Grieken
Small greek restaurant with reasonable prices. I don't think I've ever had any better calamari rings. 13-20€.

Sumo Sushi
All-you-can-eat Sushi chain with several locations in Amsterdam (I prefer the one on Leidseplein). Good selection, slightly limited for lunch. 20-30€ for all you can eat, depending on the day and time.

Small vietnamese eatery with soups and snacks, prices around 10-12€.

Le Fou Fouw Ramen Bar
Same thing in japanese: Noodle soups and gyoza, 10-15€ per bowl of soup that will get you very full.

Kantijl & De Tijger
Indonesian food, slightly touristy, but quite okay.

De Engelbewaarder
Literary café with some games, jazz on sundays and canal-side terrace in summer. Seasonal menu with really good food, reasonably priced.

Here someone took the now so hip concept of food truck roundups, put it into a former tram depot and created Amsterdam's first indoor food market with everything ranging from indian barbecue, oysters, Pizza, Quinoa Sushi, up to Bitterballen. I like the concept of being able to sample a lot of different food in one night, but when I was there in the evenings I always found it a little annoying how crowded it was: Once everybody had decided what they wanted to eat, you had to queue at the different stalls, then somehow find a place to sit and in the end one of us would always be finished eating before the others had even gotten their food. Nevertheless, the place is rather unusual and deserves a recommendation. And if you go during the day, it's not that crowded either.

Belgian beer cafe, with a very wide selection of beers and 2-for-1 meals on Mondays and Tuesdays. The food is mostly classic bar food, e.g. meat & something fried, some pasta, but quite good. Also, one of the few places here that serve Club Mate!

Beer Temple
Large selection of mostly american craft beers, if you're into that sort of stuff.

Proeflokaal Wijnand Fockinck
Distillery with a tiny bar where you can sample all of their liquors and jenevers, only open between 15.00h-21.00h. In a small side street of Dam Square.

Meat & Burgers:

Burger Bar
Small snack bar with the best burgers in Amsterdam - you get to choose between irish beef, black angus or kobe. 8-13€

Ellis Gourmet Burgers
Burger restaurant with excellent burgers on decent bread (I really don't like the typical mushy burger buns). Also serve salmon and veggie burgers. 10-15€

Cannibale Royale
Steaks, Ribs & Burger restaurant with an eerie decor. Good value for money.

Small local breweries:

De Bekeerde Suster
Good for large groups, good changing menu, try the homemade Nachos.

Brouwerij Troost
2 Locations in Westerpark & dePijp, also serves Flammkuchen&Burgers.

Brouwerij De Prael

Brouwerij t'IJ
Their brewery tour is definitely a more unique option than touring the Heineken brewery, that's so popular with tourists. Sadly I haven't been there yet myself, but all my friends are raving about it. And the beer, which you can sample in the Proeflokaal next to the brewery (next to a windmill, so it really is hard to miss), is really good!

Alternative Bars:

Café 't Schuim
Ranges somewhere between café, bar and nightclub with and very varying crowd

Bar in one of the squats (probably even the only one that's left?) on Spuistraat. Cheap drinks, *very* alternative crowd, often bands are playing or art performances are happening. Punk nights, queer nights, and vegan nights. Better check the agenda before you go, or be adventurous and drop in spontaneously (I could tell you stories...)

Rock/Metal bar with a pool table, pinball machine and a nice canalside garden. Occasional live bands.

De Nieuwe Anita
Former squat bar, excellent cocktails. Sometimes live bands, theme nights or movie nights. Cozy interior and very diverse crowd.

The Cave

Small metal bar with concerts on fridays.

Mostly for warm weather:

The Waterkant is hidden unterneath a parking garage next to the Elandsgracht bus station. It does not have that many tables but you can always just grab a beer at the bar and sit down somewhere on the pier (or bring your own drinks - nobody really minds as the quay technically isn't part of the bar). It usually has sun until rather late in the evening, so it's also crowded during the week and many people arrive in boats to refill on booze there or to pick up their friends. Food is surinamese and asian inspired. 8-15€.

Built from old shipping containers, with the most comfortable bean bags and canvas chairs on its little beach overlooking the IJ river. Child-friendly, yoga lessons on the weekend and mostly organic food.

Café Noorderlicht
Some 100 meters away from Pllek in Noord as well, located in an old greenhouse with a green garden and many comfortable seating options around.

City beach with a volleyball court and a children's playground. When it's warm, swing into the canal on a rope or get open-air bbq. On the weekend evening-events such as nightmarkets in the neighboring factory building.

Hanneke's Boom
Beer garden surrounded by water, with a nice view over the Oosterdok.

Brunch & Breakfast:

Dragon's Delight
British-influenced Brunch, Lunch and High Tea. I love their cupcakes and fresh scones! Very friendly service, sadly it's a bit off my usual routes, otherwise I would be there more often. Very reasonable prices!

Bagels & Beans
As the name indicated: popular chain for coffee and bagels. I quite like their bagel tapas, good for breakfast.


Mata Hari
Located in a former casino in the red light district, very beautiful interior.

Balthazar's Keuken
Ever since we moved into our appartment, I've wanted to go to this little restaurant around the corner, 1.5 years later we finally made it there. And I was not disappointed: delicious food, impeccable service and a very relaxed atmosphere. Every week a different menu is offered, starters and dessert are fixed, for the main course there's usually a choice between meat and fish. 32,50€ for 3 courses. Reservation recommended.

Bar Oldenhof
Luxurious cocktail place with the interior of a british gentlemen's club (except that women are allowed as well :)). You can't just come in, but have to ring the door bell, to make sure that the bar never gets too crowded. Extremely friendly staff, delicious champagne cocktails and a large selection of Single Malts and basically all other liquors you might fancy.