Monday, July 24, 2017

Catch Up

This morning, in the aftermath of heavy rain and flooding, I got around to clearing out the backlog of photos on my smartphone (don't ask which model I have, it's embarrassingly old). Here they are in groups according to date and topic.

1. Canada 150. For my non-Canadian readers, this July marks our country's 150th birthday since Confederation. Our new house is fortunately just up the street from Bellevue House, the brief home of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald ("Sir John A." for short) in the early 1840s when Kingston was the capital of the united Upper and Lower Canada.

Visitor centre at Bellevue House.
During that period, Kingston experienced a construction boom and Bellevue house is a perfect example of the Italian villa style so popular at the time. The house is situated on a rise above Lake Ontario so as to capture cool breezes on hot summer days. Our house up the street benefits from the same, so we are finding that life without air conditioning is quite comfortable (large windows, verandahs, and 10-foot ceilings help too). OK, I confess this summer is on the cool, wet side so perhaps we haven't yet been put to the test.
Gentleman on the front porch at Bellevue House.
Ladies under a tent greeting the public on Canada Day (July 1). This was the pre-hoop skirt era. Lots of petticoats for volume instead.
The orchard at Bellevue House. My son, James, spent a summer working here. One of his jobs was to scythe this grass under the trees.
And, while on the topic of Sir John A., you MUST see this feat of felting. In June I attended a spinning event here in Kingston where this life-size model turned heads. Frighteningly life like.


2. Lilies. I have a thing for them, and it's the peak of lily season here. Bear with me.

Pale yellow lilies in front of Queen's medical school building.

A riot of colour at my local garden centre.
Classic orange lilies across the street from our new place.


3. Spinning update. This is mohair/silk fingering I spindle spun during the move. It's waiting to become something. Ideas?


4. While in Toronto staying with a relative and apartment hunting with Isabel (who is now settled into her first real job there), I took this pic of a portrait of my Great Granny White. She was a remarkable lady who lived from 1835-1934. This was done in the 1850s. Her husband owned the Montreal Gazette (and several other newspapers), and became Sir John A's Minister of the Interior during the expansion of the railways. White Pass in the Yukon is named after him.


See the gold bracelet? It's now owned by Isabel, who I think is the only family member with a wrist tiny enough to wear it!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Historical Flare

I have a new obsession. It's the 18th-century "short gown", really a sort of jacket that was worn mostly (but not always) at hip length. It all started with this blog post about the rarity of finding an intact piece of work clothing from that era. In spite of this being a working woman's piece, look at the graceful shape, including the flared body and princess seams.

From an exhibit at Pottsgrove Manor, PA.
From there I discovered other interesting versions of this top, which like other work garments came to have more upper class versions, like this beauty.

See http://www.durantextiles.com/newsletter/documents/news_7de_07.asp for more about this Swedish reproduction garment.
The short gown even survived into the early 19th-century, when it evolved to have longer sleeves and a high waist.

A reproduction short gown based on what would have been worn around 1805. See http://www.sew18thcentury.com/2012/03/c1805-short-gown.html.
A large part of my fascination with this topper is its method of construction. In an era when the greatest cost in garment production was the fabric, the short gown was cut all in one piece from one length of fabric, thus reducing the amount of waste yardage. At the same time, the lack of piecing meant that a short gown could be sewn in a relatively short number of hours. Here's an example of a pattern:

From https://threadingthroughtime.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/the-18th-century-short-gown/.
This construction method was a feature of both the working and dressier versions of the short gown, as were straight 3/4 length sleeves with turned back cuffs, and a lack of buttons. The jacket was either pinned closed with straight pins and then held in place with an apron, or in the dressier versions closed with ribbons or tapes. The essence of it is reproduced in this simple print version:

From http://fashionablefrolick.blogspot.ca/2014/05/.


















It's the combination of easy construction, practicality, and a graceful shape that catches my imagination and leads me to want to interpret this as a modern knitted design. That said, the very aspects that make this a straightforward sewing job make it less friendly to knitting, at least circular knitting. A lot of thinking is required. So, that's my challenge!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Getting Ready to Ply: the Mason Jar Method

Believe it or not, this blog isn't dead yet. I'm finally on the other side of all the moving (ours AND Isabel's) and back to the point where there's some semblance of everyday life. This afternoon I unpacked two spindles of singles spun from a Wellington Fibres mohair/silk/wool blend in a colourway called "The Deep". The advantage of making my own spindles from Lee Valley materials is that they are so inexpensive I can have several. That means no more transferring singles from spindle to toilet paper tube/bobbin. I can head straight from spinning to plying with only one intermediate step--winding the singles into a centre-pull ball. Here's how I do it:


Here the mason jars are substituting for a shoebox kate. I could, of course, probably ply directly from the spindles, but I prefer to work from a transportable ball.
That's all for now. I'll be back to my regular blogging from here on, and I promise there will be pics of the new place. BTW, the principal rooms are large enough for me to hold workshops, so STAY TUNED.
P.S. Did you catch PBS Newshour's segment on the "Dirt to Shirt" movement?