New adventures in corsetry

Last night saw the draft corset stitched together (actually I did a fair amount of it at the pub yesterday lunchtime, by hand, much to the perplexity of my work colleagues!), a pair of temporary lacing strips made (that I will detach and keep for future projects) and the corset tried on. I stuck a grand total of six pieces of boning in there (a cable tie in each lacing strip, two pieces of hoop steel down the front in lieu of a busk, and one piece of each hoop steel down the sides of the front 'V'), and was very pleasantly surprised by the sturdiness of it all:

Immediately obvious problems in the photos are:

  • The expected hideous stress wrinkles – even where there was boning, it wasn't closed in at the ends, so the corset slid together along it – and there are only six pieces in there!

  • The back gaps much more at the waist than at the top, and the cable ties bend to allow this to happen… I'm not sure how much to correct for this as my waist will 'squish' more when there's more boning, but I think it's safe to say that the corset is too big at the back top.

  • The lacing goes too far down – it should stop just below the waist.
  • The neckline is just the wrong shape – it shoul basically be straight across. But to where? – Looks like basically the bottom of the armsceye to me…
  • I also think the front V should be narrower at the top – extant examples seem to have that seam running over the apex of the (natural) breast or just outside it. That point is quite wide on me, so the apex it is, then.

However, the fit in general was pretty good; the front looks OK, the side seam is pretty vertical and the waist seems to fall at roughly the right point. I'm pleased. 🙂 Onwards!!

Works, spanner in the

After ringing Whaleys earlier to enquire about the delivery timescales of my linen, I was more than a little peeved to find that their Amtrak delivery service (cost: £7.50, billed as "Quick, inexpensive delivery") can take up to a week to get your fabric to you. That is neither quick nor inexpensive in my book, and wasn't stated on the website, so I had a good whinge at them. Thing is, I know that Amtrak deliver faster than that, so it's their dispatch service that takes the time. That's particularly irritating because, unless they're continually accumulating a dispatch backlog, they must, on average, be shipping a day's worth of orders every day. So they're just running late! (And that's nothing; they say standard parcel post can take up to 14 days to get to you. Royal Mail may have it's downsides, but they're not that bad!)

So I was surprised to get back from lunch to find an email telling me my recent order had been partially refunded – but no reason why. So I ring them again, hoping against hope that they've refunded me some money for being pants at delivery (though 50% would be rather generous…). Of course, my linen is out of stock. Now I'm *very* peeved!!
Happily, I do know that they have some white self-striped linen that is rather nice; it's a woven stripe, and I've had a sample of it before. They haven't run out of that, so I ordered that instead. And am now faced with the delivery dilemma again. I can either pay £16.50, and get the stuff by Tuesday(! – it's Friday today) or pay £7.50 and get it *next* Friday. Which is cutting things a little fine – there's only 2 weeks left to get it done in.
So I go quiet and mumble about disappointment and urgency and the fact that the delivery will be costing me more than the fabric (considerably so – this stuff's only £2.25 a metre!), and the nice girl eventually says she can do it delivery free for me, since they've let me down. Yayyy!! Wish I'd ordered more of it, now. But still, no linen till Tuesday, so no shift-making till Wednesday, at least.
In *good* news, I finished the hoop pockets last night. They are remarkably sturdy. And they are made out of foxglove pink glazed cotton, and make me look like the dame out of a pantomime. They're great!! I think they should be tied further away from the waist than I have was trying them, though. Period pictures seem to show the natural (well, corseted) swell of the hips for a short way before the skirts really get going. See? This will also make the top of the hoops less horizontal, giving a gentler swell to the skirts rather than an enormous 'floof'. They are very 'floofy' at the moment; I can't go through doors straight on, for example. I think the somewhat extreme angle may be toned down by wearing lots of heavy skirts on top of them. Hope so! Will try and get a photo of them up at some point, along with design sketches (whose skirts look a lot less floofy than the paniers, and which I infinitely prefer!) Slightly worrying, that… 😉

This weekend's aims, then, will include fitting the stays, making the stays, making a petticoat from the remains of the pink cotton, and if I have time, draping/drafting the robe pattern using the calico that arrived this morning (that I ordered yesterday from Online Fabric UK – shame they don't do linen). If I'm lucky, the draft can also be the robe lining – 2 birds, 1 stone. I must remember to take a paper pattern, though, if I do that – don't want to have to do it all again another time!

Ideally, I'll also find fabric for the jupe and stomacher, but we'll see.

So it's not like Whaley's have severely impacted my sewing schedule – I'll be amazed if I get through that lot, and I have three skirts and a dress to make on order, to boot – but I'm still peeved. I'm really looking forward to making a shift, for some reason!

Another day, another huge project with an unbelievably tight deadline…

Costuming, costuming, costuming… Planning frivolously unwearable outfits, spending more than you meant to, sewing all evening and then being unable to get to sleep because you're too inspired. Waking up early, knackered but still buzzing, and taking bits of stuff to work with you – not because you actually anticipate being able to insert corset boning in the office, but because you can't bear to leave it behind… Ahh, why can't I do this for a living?? (Because it's less fun if you've done it before, and if you *have* to, I suspect…)

If you don't already know what I'm planning to wear for Alex and James's joint 30th birthday party, and would actually like it to be the intended surprise, read no further now…

So, Pirates of the Caribbean, then. Fab movie, fabber costumes – rooted in historical fact, even. A little battered by the tempests of Hollywood design, but recognisable, nonetheless. So when Alex suggested a Masked Ball theme, what could be more obvious than to recreate Elizabeth's Gold Dress? (the one that her Dad gives her with the tight corset that makes her faint. Hopefully, I won't be reproducing *that* detail…) So this week, I've mostly been researching 1770s fashion (ahem). I think that it's basically a fairly early robe a l'anglaise with a triangular stomacher (cream with gold embroidery) and a cream damask petticoat (or jupe). The fabric is a gold satin brocade with a large floral-type design – conveniently similar to some curtain fabrics available today. The costume goes together as follows:

  • Under everything, she wears a linen shift, which in period would have had lace attached at the neckline and cuffs (which are elbow-length, rather than the very long sleeves seen on Elizabethan and renaissance chemises). In the movie costume, the lace may be attached to the dress itself, for ease; I'll construct it the more period way.
  • Over the shift, the aforementioned corset is worn, and a pair of 'false hips' – the movie costume actually uses a short hoop-skirt, but I'll be using a pair of pocket hoops. Over the hips, I may need one or more petticoats, to stop the boning in the hoops showing through the top skirt.
  • Then the decorative petticoat that shows through the split in the robe is worn on top of that, and the stomacher is pinned or laced onto the front of the corset
  • Finally(!) the robe is pulled on like a coat and fastened to the stomacher, by pins, ties or hooks and eyes.

So, I have a fair bit to make, then! I have ordered linen for the shift, and I think I have tracked down some suitable lace on eBay (lots of it actually; we'll have to see how the prices go…). The linen is bright white, so once I've made up the shift, I may try tea-dying it. Apparently, 18th century shifts were made of quite sturdy, shirtweight linen, not the extremely fine stuff you would see a couple of hundred years earlier.

Fortunately, my recent bouts of eBay enthusiasm have resulted in a plethora of odds and ends that will be very useful. I bought a huge quantity of cotton drill that can be used for corsetry (or at least the mock-ups), and 20 metres (yes, really) of plastic covered boning that will be used for the pocket hoops and the longer bones in the corset. I'm hoping to try using cable ties for the rest of the boning, but there may be a problem in that I'm pretty darn *tall* and cable ties only come in lengths up to 30cm or so… I also have some glazed cotton that someone on eBay sold me as 'satin or something similar' that is proving useful for the pocket hoops, and which may be used to mock up the dress itself – or at least to provide the 'structural' petticoat to go over the hoops – there's about 5m of it.

I think I've tracked down a suitable brocade for the robe itself, but I'm awaiting photos to be sure. I've also ordered a bunch of cream coloured calico that should be useful for draping and/or lining the robe. The stomacher and jupe are more problematical; there are no shortages of cream damasks, but a lot of them look like curtains or throws. It would also be nice to have a design that 'fits' the triangular shape of the stomacher, but that's probably hoping for too much (or at least, I'd have to embroider it myself, and that's probably a leap too far).

I've come up with a few sketches that I really like for the dress itself (in a meeting, oops). Will try and scan and upload them sometime. As far as I can tell (not being an expert), it's not really a truly historical shape, but a mix of elements from the era. The bodice is quite restrained and upright – very wide necklines were in vogue for a lot of this era, but I guess wouldn't be practical in the Caribbean anyway (especially as fair skin was a beauty asset). It's my guess that it was designed that way to make Elizabeth appear more of an innocent girl-woman than a flaunting rich girl. It's also possible that most paintings are not of day-wear, which this gown is, but rather people decked out in their finest evening-wear.

The skirt is also intriguing; the robe is definitely a l'anglaise – that is, it isn't a sacque dress, where the back part is all loose and pleated. The fashion with this style of bodice was to have the narrow centre back panels cut all in one with the back of the skirt, with heavily pleated sections over the hips – as seen here. That later became reduced to a point at the centre back, on a fully cut waistline. But I don't think either of these patterns would account for the slight train the gown appears to have, when you see her full length and in profile. I haven't found any shots of the back waist of the dress, but I think I'm going to treat it like an Elizabethan dress – straight across at the back. Dresses with this cut were generally worn polonaised (i.e. the overskirt all gathered up and floofed out), but at least that means it's a plausible cut!

Equally, I have a feeling that the gathered sleeves of Elizabeth's dress are an invention of the costume designer. I haven't seen similar ones anywhere else! They're cute, though, and a defining feature of the dress, so I'll see if I can manage to recreate them. So, the current status is:

  • Shift. Linen ordered, lace eyeballed, free pattern found here. Linen will need pre-shrinking before sewing can commence…

  • Stays (corset). Have fabric, have ordered cable ties, found free pattern here, which I have since sliced up in the interests of adjusting it to my size, and reproducing the piecing seen in extant examples.
  • Pocket hoops. Nearly done! Started them last night (again, pattern here) and they are so coool!! Am slightly worried that with a slight train on the dress I will also need a bum pad, or would have been better off with the short hoop skirt that was worn in the movie, as these will not support the rear part of the skirt at all…
  • Petticoat. Probably use the glazed pink cotton for this, as well as a first draft for the skirt. I know how it's supposed to be put together, but have no pattern…
  • Stomacher. Probably the least defined item to date. Still hunting fabric, although I do have a fallback or two lined up…
  • Jupe. Pretty much the same as the stomacher, but less demanding on the fabric.
  • Robe. Exciting!! I think I have tracked down the fabric – fingers crossed!! Lining is ordered. No pattern – planning to drape it (mostly rectangular skirt, and the bodice can be taken at least in part from a well-fitted corset).
  • Shoes. I'm planning to wear a pair of heeled boots with this. Non-period, but I already own them, and if I am in any danger of looking wide in this gown, they should help. (I'm not as narrow as Keira Knightley, but hopefully won't look like a complete lump by comparison!!). I will, however, look very, very tall.
  • Hat. No lady is dressed without her hat. 😉
  • Mask. What?? It's a *masked* ball you say? Oooh, my bad…


Totally geeky moment

Possibly even nerdy. Or maybe I'm just bored… 😉 OK, I've never even played D&D, but I did this quiz anyway. Whaddaya think, sound familiar??

I Am A: Neutral Good Elf Ranger Bard

Neutral Good characters believe in the power of good above all else. They will work to make the world a better place, and will do whatever is necessary to bring that about, whether it goes for or against whatever is considered 'normal'.

Elves are the eldest of all races, although they are generally a bit smaller than humans. They are generally well-cultured, artistic, easy-going, and because of their long lives, unconcerned with day-to-day activities that other races frequently concern themselves with. Elves are, effectively, immortal, although they can be killed. After a thousand years or so, they simply pass on to the next plane of existance.

Primary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Secondary Class:
Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.

Mielikki is the Neutral Good goddess of the forest and autumn. She is also known as the Lady of the Forest, and is the Patron of Rangers. Her followers are devoted to nature, and believe in the positive and outreaching elements of it. They use light armor, and a variety of weapons suitable for hunting, which they are quite skilled at. Mielikki's symbol is a unicorn head.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy of NeppyMan (e-mail)

What the who??!?

OK, walking is proving an interesting challenge today. This is because I spent almost *all* Saturday doing Scottish dancing (for the first time in nearly 10 years, I'd guess). Scottish dancing is very on-the-toes – your heels don't touch down much when you're moving, which is tough on the calves.

I have never, ever in my life prior to this weekend made my calves so sore with exercise that it takes two attempts to get out of bed because I can't actually stand up. Two mornings in a row. And I didn't even dance yesterday. I'm so glad I don't sleep on the top of a bunk bed any more. 😉

Now, it's fairly humbling to know that I *can* actually do this to myself – I prefer to exist in the state of happy delusionment that says I can take as much of any kind of dancing as you can throw at me, and bounce right back. Admittedly, I was extra-tired to start with this Saturday due to the recent hectic decorating schedule. And I don't have quite the calves of steel that I had when I was doing ballet n times a week, but even so… But the truly gobsmacking moment didn't come till I was trying to explain to my boss (who finds my chorus of "Ow! Ow! Ow!" every time I stand up truly hilarious) what I'd done to myself. His response?? "You have absolutely no respect for your body, you know."

Who, me?!?? I am almost the most body-respecty person I know! It has never occurred to me that making my calves (or other muscles) ridiculously stiff with unaccustomed exercise might be considered 'lack of respect for my body'. They're only stiff! Not torn or sprained or anything!! It's a normal after effect of exercise! I take such good care of my body I simply expect it to keep up with me, goshdarnit! Hmmmph. No respect, huh.

Anyway, clearly I need to dance *more* to keep myself in trim for this kind of thing. And thankyou *very* much, Ruth, for dragging me along. It was a great weekend, and lovely to see you!

Kitchen! Kitchen! Kitchen!! Wheeee!!!

'tis done! And it looks fantastic! I am so chuffed with it – it's really come together well. And on time. We seem to have oceans of storage space – which is a good thing, it was planned that way – and all the cupboards seem enormous! The wall cupboards are much taller than the old ones (3 shelves instead of 2!), and the base units along the cooker wall are 10cm deeper than the old ones. Plus, of course, there are now base units along the old radiator wall, too!

Of course, there are all kinds of little things left to do – some sealing round the sink, some paint touch-ups, and we need to buy and install the upstands around the edge of the worktop. And the decorative cornice that goes round the base of the cupboards isn't attached yet, or the under-cupboard lighting that it will hide. But, essentially, It Is Done. And It Is *Good*. 🙂

More photos to follow…

Yellow! Yellow walls!

Two coats of paint went on last night, pretty much according to plan. And… the walls are looking good! Especially the wall formerly known as 'radiator wall'. This is the wall that will not be obscured (above worktop height) by units, so This Is Important.

However, I still hate the evil joint tape, and re-iterate my dislike for even slightly glossy paint on walls. Matt! Matt paint is what walls want! Soft, almost powdery looking matt paint that of zero specularity! Gentle, forgiving matt paint that hides all lumps, bumps and imperfections! Sadly, matt paint is a grease sponge and not very washable, thus is a bad choice for kitchens. There is a reason why "Kitchen and Bathroom" paint only comes in semi-gloss – it's non-absorbent and washable. Hmmmph.

The joint tape has sadly left a noticeable indentation in the joint filler that we have failed to Polyfill unto unobtrusiveness 😦 I *think* and am fervently hoping that the joints will both be hidden by wall units – at least one will be, for certain sure. Both, I think. Hope. It's nothing that will show up on a photograph (which explains why all those 'one day makeover' DIY shows manage to make everything look spangly without 2 weeks of back-breaking prep work for the whole team), but frustrating after all the hard work that was put into it – and not even by me. 😦

I was surprised by the sheer *yelllowness* of the walls this morning. I thought we'd picked a colour that was pretty white, but yellowish (rather than pinkish or brownish, which describes most 'magnolia' type colours). At any rate, I thought it was much less yellow than the units (which I didn't have time to check before I left for work this morning), in order to provide a contrast. There are two possible explanations:

  • The kitchen is going to be very, very yellow
  • I was wrong about the paint colour

Hmmm. I think I'd rather that the kitchen turned out hyper-yellow. Not, you understand, because I have a pathological objection to being wrong or anything (ahem), but because I'd rather have a contrast between the walls and the units than have it too blendy-inny. And yellow is a bright, happy, sunshiny colour anyway.

The other possibility, I suppose, is that it currently looks far yellower than it is, because it used to be pinkish/brownish/polyfillerish/plasterboardish and I haven't got used to it yet. Mmmmmaybe… 😉

On schedule! Boo-YAHH!!

Got primer on the walls last night. 2 people, 2 brushes, 1 evening. Does this make me worried about tonights goal of 2 coats of paint (with a 5 hour gap between them)? No, not at all, because:

  1. We don't have to sand, hoover or dust anything before we can start tonight
  2. Similarly, the floor is already all protected by plastic dustsheet
  3. Dulux Trade Primer can only be applied by brush cos it's all runny. This is slow. Dulux Kitchen and Bathroom paint, however, is much thicker and so can be applied with a roller (of which we have two, with matching, clean heads). This is much quicker
  4. I got into work at 8 this morning, which means I can go home at 4:30, and therefore actually start painting at 5pm. The observant will notice that this means the earliest I can start the second coat is 10pm
  5. There is always the option of finishing the second coat tomorrow morning before work
  6. I am now so far beyond tired that I have entered the sparkly, jittery world at the other end and have limitless amounts of physical energy and boundless optimism (but can't concentrate to save my life). I'd feel better about this if I didn't have a meeting with some kind of boss-man in a couple of hours.

Hmmm. The optimism may be dying; I just noticed that I have a meeting 4:00 till 5:00… Arse.

Many more photographs have been taken, by the way (but get progressively less interesting as the walls get neater) – I will link some of them to their rightful spots as soon as they have been uploaded.

No longer impossible…

Well, definitely getting there on the kitchen front. The wall is up again, thanks to the (almost) tireless efforts of Martyn. Many, many lesser holes have been filled due to the equal tirelessness of Alex. Much wallpaper, excess filler and wayward paint has been tamed due to the skill and powertools of James. And I've been fussing and puttering and sanding and fine-filling and doing all kinds of less structural or electrical jobs round the edges. The schedule is tight, but does actually look attainable.

I'm very glad I stayed in Cambridge on Thursday night – that was the point at which the whole thing turned around and started going forwards again. Up until that point, it felt as if we were dismantling more than we were creating. All in a good cause, of course, but it all lengthens the project, and the deadline on this one is hard… But on Thursday, the first two sheets of plasterboard went back up, and didn't make too much of a fuss about it, either. (Or at least, Martyn didn't swear too much about it if they did!)

I had a lovely relaxing weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday at my parents' – wow, it's just occurred to me that I only actually spent one full day there. Felt like a much longer break than that!), and got back to the fun that is DIY for Bank Holiday Monday.

The main discovery at this stage was that the jointing tape they sell at Homebase is worse than useless. You're supposed to use this stuff to bridge the gap between two pieces of plasterboard – you skim the gap with joint filler, lay the tape over (soaked and all), then top with more filler. Well, Martyn did a really fantastic job with all this on Monday (aided greatly by his glamorous tape-assistant Alex), but by Tuesday morning, all the tape was curling under along its edges and pulling away from the wall. So we had to pull it off, sand down the filler and add more where necessary – what a waste of time and effort!

So that had to be re-done last night. We also bought the paint (which is a relief to have done!), some roller heads that won't stain the paint red or green, very wide masking tape, more electrical outlets and other assorted goodies. I am now resigned to the fact that the deadline on this is way too short to get the walls as lovely as they are in the living room, and in any case, the only way to do that would probably be to replace *all* the walls. So the rest of the evening was devoted to making the walls as flat as possible (apart from Martyn, who wired up a very swanky setup for the washer and dishwasher to be plugged into – circuit breaker {as spotted by J} above the worktop, plugs below), and actually *tidying* tools away. You wouldn't know it to look at the living room, but there's actually significantly less stuff in there than there was yesterday.

I have been up very early for the last two mornings, sanding and filling, sanding and filling. 6am yesterday, 7am today. And the nights have been getting later, too. All of which presumably explains why I have been rambling on for several paragraphs now about the same thing. Well, the end is definitely in sight, anyway. The proposed schedule is as follows:

  • Tonight: lightly sand all walls, hoover them, remove excess dust with damp cloth and prime (primer/sealer for plaster and plasterboard). This takes 18 hours to dry, so needs to be done on its very own evening.
  • Tomorrow: If we can manage it, *two* coats of paint. There's supposed to be 5 hours between coats, so this might not happen. We'll see.
  • Friday before work: Another coat of wall-paint, if not acheived the night before
  • Friday evening: Ceiling paint. We need to have washed the ceiling at some point before this, which is always fun. We're only expecting the ceiling to need one coat, though… Ruth and Roly are arriving on Friday, I think. I'm pretty sure they are, anyway… 😉
  • Saturday: The kitchen starts getting fitted. And I'm off dancing for the day, assuming I can still stand.
  • Sunday: More dancing. Kitchen finished apart from small details like painting woodwork, re-attaching the door, skirting boards and upstands (which I haven't ordered yet…). Curry. Sleep. Mmmmm… Sleeeeeeep….

So, think we'll make it? Heeee. Exciting again, now 🙂

It just goes on and on…

Well, we gave up on the most damaged wall and pulled it off entirely on Tuesday night. I think that was definitely the right decision to make; it needed some rewiring, it was cursed with lumpy wallpaper apparently applied using HugTight Sticky Glue (name that book…), and it had the worst tile holes of the lot. We were somewhat surprised to find no battens between the plasterboard and the breezeblock; just blobs of cementey-gluey stuff. This house is full of surprises, and I'm seriously reconsidering the plan to change the bathroom around.

The other walls are getting there, though. Most of the wallpaper is off, or at least subdued, and after comedy radiator pipe-ends not fitting on Tuesday, we got it removed last night. The pipes are still hanging down the walls; they will eventually be capped off near the ceiling, but that will require draining the system and making darn sure the end caps fit – without the help of any threaded parts. I decided that it would be far too much of a disaster if we got it wrong, and so it would be left for the fitter to do. But at least we can prep behind the radiator now – some of which will be visible in the new scheme of things…

Oh, and just to make things more interesting, J cut his hand quite nastily yesterday (actually looks far worse in real life than in the photo). DIY hero?? Nah, shopping casualty – packaging breakage on a 4-pack of 2 litre cola bottles. D'oh!

I was originally intending to go up to Middlesbrough tonight for Easter, straight after work. In the circumstances, however, I think I'll postpone till tomorrow morning. It'd be nice if I could go up knowing that there are at least 4 intact walls in my kitchen. When the fitter said there would be a 2 week gap between de-installing and installing the kitchens, I was quite disappointed; I thought that was way more time than I needed (even accounting for Easter weekend). I wasn't expecting the thing to put up quite this level of resistance, though.

Next step, once the walls are up: fill all large and medium 'dings', seal and undercoat. Further ding-filling requirements to be assessed once undercoat is on; experience suggests that once the wall is all one colour, it will be much easier to identify the bits that need more work.