Saturday, 9 January 2016

My Liebster Award Post - probably the longest post ever!

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had been nominated by Hannah of Fact & Fiction for the Liebster Award. However, it has been a busy start to the New Year finding and settling into a new job, as well as completing my first sewing project of the year, and I have only just got round to sitting down to make my own nominations and answer Hannah's questions. What's more, since the first nomination, I have also been nominated by Kristen at The Victorian Needle. I'm so excited to have had two nominations so suddenly and hope that it is a good omen for my sewing and my blog this year!

As mentioned in my previous post the rules of the award are as follows:

1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you.
2. Answer the questions the nominating blogger asked.
3. List 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers that deserve some recognition.
4. Write 11 questions for them to answer.
5. Notify them that they have been nominated.

To prevent this becoming a mini dissertation (in theory at least) I have combined both Hannah and Kristen's questions so that there are still only eleven to answer. Here they are...

    1. What started you off in sewing?  When did the creative bug hit you and what or who sparked or inspired it? 
    My first ever costume for the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival Grand Ball - typical of me to start with something as complicated as a ball gown!

    For as long as I can remember I have always loved pretty dresses and my interest in history naturally led to my fascination with historical dress and fashion. My Mum also taught me to sew and knit at a young age which must have sparked my enjoyment for handicrafts involving needle and thread. I didn't really start to dress-make though until I was about 16, although I did enjoy knitting before this. After leaving school, I started to get really interested in vintage fashion and my Mum helped me to create my own wardrobe of vintage-inspired clothes using original patterns. At first she did most of the sewing but I soon started to want to be able to make my own things. Within a year, I had made the leap from seamstress to historical seamstress. It had long been a dream of mine to be able to recreate the kinds of costumes that I had discovered online ( I was particularly inspired by the work of Katherine and her website and the chance came when my parents mentioned that they would be holidaying in Llandrindod Wells, in Wales. This was, they reminded me, that town we had been to once when I was younger where they held a Victorian festival every year. Victorian Festival!! That got me right away! And that is how I came to make my very first historical costumes, learning as I went from patterns, books and online tutorials and I haven't looked back.
    1. What made you decide to start blogging? How have you grown as a blogger?
    From the very beginning, I always intended to blog about my costumes, having been inspired to get involved in the historical costume world by blogs in the first place. Also, as I didn't know anyone else that shared my hobby at the time it seemed like the perfect way to be able to share my new passion with others. Over time I have developed my confidence in writing posts and am gradually becoming successful at posting more regularly. I have also expanded the number of other blogs that I read and this year I am planning to vary the types of posts that I write to include step-by-step breakdowns of my projects in progress. That is if I remember to take the step-by-step photographs which I am not very good at remembering to do! Hence why I have never posted a tutorial/work-in-progress type post...
    1. What is your favourite time period to dress in and your favourite project so far?

    Dancing with my Dad wearing my white muslin 1850s ballgown. This is the best dress to dance in ever! It is so light and I love the way it moves.

    So far, I have mostly only created Victorian costume of the 1850s/1860s and the mid-1880s. Of the two, I love the look of the 1880s but prefer to wear the cage crinoline fashions of the mid-century. I find them more comfortable to wear for long periods of time because the crinoline distributes the weight of the skirts much more evenly around the whole body and I love the way they move, especially when dancing. There is something about the feel and swish of the skirts that never fails to make you feel like a princess and dancing at a ball is never more fun than when you twirl around and around in a crinoline skirt! As for my favourite project, I think they have all been my favourite while I was working on them and then I am always eager for another more exciting and difficult challenge. I especially enjoyed making my first corset though as this was something completely new to me and felt like a real achievement.
    1. What is your favourite costuming book/resource?
    This is a very difficult question because I cannot resist a good costume book, however expensive (which is unfortunate since they rarely come cheaply!). I have quite a collection already and use them frequently when researching and designing. Some of my absolute favourites include The V&A's Fashion in Detail Series, "Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazar 1867-1898" and "La mode du XIXe siècle en images".

    1. What three tools are the most loved in your crafting room and what item do you lose the most while sewing?
    The second part of this question is the easiest to answer. I am always losing my tape measure. It doesn't matter whether I hang it round my neck, tie it round my wrist or pin it to myself, it always manages to escape and slither away like an errant snake to hide under the nearest table, chair or pile of fabric so that I can never find it when I need it. And when I say "it", what I actually mean is "them" because even with three tape measures I can never seem to find one when I really need it!

    The most useful tool in my workroom (also known as my bedroom!) has to be Gertrude, my dressform. Although I haven't tried much draping yet, she is invaluable when it comes to fitting things for myself, figuring out the drape of bustle skirts, pleating crinoline skirts directly onto the waistband and generally proudly displaying my progress. One thing I would like to do this year when I get the chance is make a personalised form using ducktape for an even better fitting tool. 

    I also love my sleeve board. I bought it at a brocante for 5 euros when I was living in Paris and it is practically antique! What's more it is almost identical to one that my Grandad made for my Grandma. It's not just about the way it looks though - it is so useful for pressing seams, not just on sleeves but on anything that is small, fiddly, curved or won't fit over the ironing board.

    And finally, the latest addition to my tool kit is a magnetic pin dish. When I discovered this whilst browsing Vena Cava Design'sonline shop I thought they must have designed it especially for me. My pins have a life of their own and seem to migrate around the house of their own accord presenting a serious risk to unsuspecting bare feet. This is not helped by the fact that, no matter how careful I try to be, I always manage to somehow knock my whole box of pins onto the floor whenever I am sewing. However, if the blurb is true, even if I do drop this dish the pins won't fall out (I've tried shaking it upside down quite successfully) and you can throw pins from a distance and they stick to it, rather than missing and falling off the table.
    1. Are you very organised about completing sewing projects, or are you more of a whatever-takes-your-fancy sewer?
    I try to be organised and this year with so many projects and my shop to think about I have actually written a schedule for the whole year to try to make sure everything gets done and that I complete my Historical Sew Monthly projects in the right order and in time for specific events. Having said that, I can also be a whatever-takes-my-fancy kind of girl. I have stacks of fabric bought months ago for different projects, but that never stops me buying something new because it suddenly inspires me and making it up right there and then whilst the other projects sulk in the cupboard. When I am choosing a new project, I also tend to be inspired by whatever interests me at that moment, whether that is an event, something I've read about or an image I've seen or a particular fabric or trimming that catches my eye.
    1. What’s your first step when beginning a new project? Do you sketch? Start looking at swatches? Plan the accessories first while you work up to the big number?
    It depends. In the past I have started from a pattern that I liked, researched similar dresses and used this to create a design sketch which I have then worked from to sew the costume. I have also recreated costumes directly from photographs and fashion plates, matching and adapting patterns and fabrics to the dresses depicted. And sometimes it is the fabric or trimmings that inspire me - I find something and I can just see the type of dress that I want to make in my mind's eye. I find inspiration everywhere and it would probably take me 100 years to make all the costumes I plan and imagine in different ways!

    My first ever costume (1858 pink petal ballgown) was based on two Truly Victorian patterns. I traced the pattern drawings to create the base for my sketch and then looked to fashion plates for inspiration for my choice of colours and trimmings.
    This 1860s velvet winter ensemble was based on photographs of Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) of Austria
    1. What form does your fabric stash take, and how do you organize it?
    The problem with my fabric stash is that it has no form and no organisation. I am afflicted by a disease that affects many costumers known as CHH - Compulsive Haberdashery Hoarding! This means that when I see anything that I can be creative with costume-wise - fabric, trimming, buttons etc. - at a price that I can afford and that I know I may not be able to find again, I have to buy it. Friends and family also contribute with bits and pieces that they know I will appreciate and the result is that my stash probably takes up more space than the rest of my belongings put together! So much so that some of it lives with me and some at my parents' house because I can't find room for all of it. Having said that, reducing it is definitely not an option as it is a constant source of inspiration and will keep me in clothes and costumes for years to come. However, in future I may have to think about organising it as sometimes I find things I didn't even know I had. I dream of having a workroom where I can store it all according to type and colour but for the moment that's taking it a bit too far!
    1. If you could buy yourself one present for your sewing room, what would it be?
    Well, to start with, I would quite like to buy myself a sewing room! But seeing as that is not within my budget I would be happy to settle for a large, sturdy table for cutting out that wouldn't need to be protected from scissors by large cardboard sheets that slide about and wouldn't shake and wobble when I use my sewing machine.
    1. If time and money were no object, what new place would you visit and what new crafting skills would you like to learn ?
    I would love to have the chance to visit the USA and participate in some historical/reenactment/sewing events. I dream of one day being able to attend Costume College and I would also like to have the chance to dance at a Civil War ball. In terms of crafting skills, I received Allsion Lowery's "Historical Wig Styling" book for Christmas and I would love to be able to learn to hand-tie and style my own wigs to get the perfect look for my costumes. I am also keen to develop my lace-making skills and I have always been fascinated with thread buttons.

    1. What’s the last really great book you read?
    I am currently reading "Isabella and Sam: The Story of Mrs Beeton" by Sarah Freeman. As well as being well-written and easy to read it is a fascinating story and a real insight into this unique and unusual woman's life. It completely shatters the myth of the homely Victorian cook and housewife that Isabella is often assumed to have been and paints a picture of a young, determined and talented journalist who collaborated on an even footing with her husband in his publishing business, achieving astounding things for a woman of her time only to die tragically young. I am only about half way through but I would definitely recommend this book.


    Whew!! Dissertation over! Now it's somebody else's turn. My search for blogs with less than 200 followers lead me to make several new discoveries and these are the blogs that I would like to nominate. I didn't quite make it to eleven as I discovered when writing this post that The Shadow of My Hand and Mon Armoire Magique have been nominated before, but I think nine is close enough.

    1. Frolicking Frocks - I am not sure if Natalie is still blogging but I love her Tissot Picnic Bustle Dress so much (not to mention being jealous of the whole concept of a Tissot Picnic!) that I had to nominate this blog. Maybe a nomination will inspire Natalie to share more of her wonderful costumes... I hope so.

    2. Couture Historique - I love reading Lindsey's blog as the pictures always look like she and her friends really have stepped back in time. I am envious of the beautiful period settings and the detail and authenticity of her costumes are wonderful.

    3. Sewing Experiments - I first started following Natalia's blog when I saw the stunning photographs from her Rococo photoshoot of her 18th century robe à la francaise. Her costumes are so original and inspiring and I love her attention to detail and creative photoshoots.

    4. Madame Modiste Historique  - I've nominated Kat partly because I love the subtitle of her blog (sipping champagne while wearing pretty dresses is definitely my idea of fun) but also for her fabulous Tudor dress inspired by Katherine Howard. I also admire her bravery in taking on pattern drafting and enlarging with no previous experience, something I haven't yet worked up the courage for!

    5. Isabel Northwode Costumes - Peryn's blog is new to me but what I've seen is really inspiring. I love her 1876 blue corset and her post on the making of a pair of 1780s stays is fascinating. I would like to start explore 18th century costume and this kind of post is so helpful for learning about new techniques. Not only that, but she is studying for the same Dress and Textile Histories Masters course that I completed last year!

    6. Ruffs and Rollerskates- Another great title. I love the idea of this combination! And in terms of costume, Lindsey's blog offers something different too - the 16th century isn't very common period for the majority of the blogs that I follow and I found her detailed posts on the creation of her 16th century Venetian gown really interesting.

    7. Stepping into History - This is another blog that is new to me. Danielle is a reenactor and posts both about reenactment and her costume sewing projects. I love reading her posts and am particularly impressed and envious that she has been ice skating in a crinoline!

    8. TwilaTee - Twila Tee is on a mission to costume the world, a valuable cause which I heartily applaud! Not only this but her "making of" and tutorial posts are brilliantly detailed, something I aspire to for my future blogging.

    9. Eva's Kleidertruhe- My love of costuming and costume blogs is now so extreme that I even enjoy reading blogs in languages that I don't understand! Fortunately Eva is kind enough provide translations for those of us who don't speak German so that we can appreciate her beautiful projects.

    (P.S. My apologies if any of these blogs do actually have more than 200 followers - I did my best to check but not everyone seems to display their follower numbers - or I don't know where to look...Similarly, I am not certain that some of these blogs haven't been nominated before...)

    These are the questions that I would like to ask my nominees:

    1. What aspect of creating historical costume do you enjoy the most? The research, the design, the making, small details, learning new skills, wearing the costumes?
    2. What is your perspective on historical accuracy and what aspects of this do you prioritise when sewing (cut, construction, techniques, fabrics etc.)?
    3. What kinds of research do you do when planning a new costume?
    4. What are your favourite sources of information for learning more about historical costume?
    5. Where do you shop for fabrics and what influences the fabrics you buy?
    6. What is your favourite fabric to work with and why?
    7. What do you get out of sharing your costumes with the historical costuming community online?
    8. What is one of the most valuable things you have learned from other bloggers about creating historical costume?
    9. Which of your projects have you learnt the most from?
    10. What is your favourite reaction to one of your costumes/you wearing one of your costumes?
    11. If time and money were no object, what would your dream project be?

    And that completes the longest post in the history of my blog. Many thanks again to Hannah and Kristen for nominating me and wishing everyone happy costuming!

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