Thursday, July 24, 2014

Attempting a Gibson or Edwardian Blouse

Hello all,

It's been a long time since I took the time to sit down and chat.  Grant you, it's been a long time since I've been able to do some good old sewing.  So long, in fact, that I'm going to discuss the Edwardian blouse I worked on last summer.

My wardrobe sadly lacked a good old basic blouse, and I had a hankering for a nice Edwardian style.  My good friend lent me her Folkwear pattern, since we're close to the same size, and I had the added advantage of borrowing her completed blouse as well, which allowed me to figure out where I could cut my pattern back a bit.

I used the Folkwear Gibson Girl pattern, #205.    Here's an image of the package and the diagrams for the pattern. 
Their design could be quite fancy, as shown below.  However, unlike what you see below, their collar is considerably shorter than what they show in this photo - it's more what you see in the pattern design sketch above right. 
I opted for the non-fancy, non-pleated yoke, as it's less work.  I also decided not to have a belt at the waist, since I was planning to always have it tucked into a skirt waistband.  I decided upon a nice white and green cotton striped material (which tends toward a seersucker finish when it's been washed, if one doesn't iron it out).  I thought the stripes would look nice going vertically along the bodice and sleeves, and running  horizontally along the yoke, collar, and cuffs.  (Though I still managed to accidentally cut out the yoke with the stripes going vertically ... why I always buy extra fabric!)

Here's the blouse in progress, yoke and bodice attached front and back, but with no sleeves or collar yet.  I opted for a small edging of lace inserted between yoke and bodice.

Before attaching the collar, I had to figure out how I wanted to trim it.  I had a variety of lace pieces around as options.
I even contemplated a little lace jabot.
However, after polling my sewing pals on Facebook, I decided I'd go for edging with the really narrow lace, since my neck isn't terribly long.  I also remembered I had a bone or ivory piece which I found in an old jar of buttons I'd bought at an antiques market, and so I added that to the centre front of the collar.  (Surprisingly, I forgot it was there when I washed the blouse the first time, and it survived the process entirely unscathed!)
Here is how the front looked, with the ivory piece and all the different laces combined.
And here is the finished blouse in all it's glory, front and back.  The back attaches with hooks and eyes along the opening which goes from collar to the bottom of the yoke. 
All in all, a great little blouse, and easy to make - it took me a week of frittering away in the evenings to make this.  I kept with the pintucked sections in the back, where one would normally have the belt running, as it ensured that, when tucked into a skirt, it would automatically lay nicely.

Alas, I realize I have no decent photo of me wearing this blouse, just one very tiny, very blurry photo, from a local picnic.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Yes, Virginia, You CAN Steampunk Christmas

Season's Greetings, everyone!  The days are getting chillier and shorter, and thoughts are veering toward Christmas, even for those of us who strenuously avoid such thoughts til Halloween and Remembrance Day are over. 

This is a post far longer in the making than needed, for which I apologize.  When I had to create a steampunk display for our group's table at a Christmas Faire, I started the seeds of this article.  While creating the visual display of steampunk, I decided I should have a section fitting in with the Christmas theme, so I decided to investigate Steampunking Christmas.
A bit of Googling online (see below), and I found some great steampunked Christmas images, including the Steampunk Santa, by CyborgNecromancer (found here on deviantART), Ms. Koobickle's Steampunk Santa in Airship, from her post in 2009 at her blog, and some awesome embroidery designs on Urban Threads.  There were several others images I found as well, but these ones particularly caught my eye.
The Steampunk Christmas crafts I've encountered range from from Jennifer Dove's crafted Christmas card masterpiece (apparently made with stamps, gears, weights a lot, and it even ticks! details here), to Desert Rubble's wonderful polymer Steampunk Santas, on Deviantart here and here.
And of course, there are Christmas ornaments for a tree with a difference.  I quite like ValerianaSolaris' polymer ornament made from a glass ball and Fimo.
Jen, at Epbot, posted an article about steampunk Christmas ornaments, showing off some beauties she found, including this stunner below, which she names The Ultimate Steampunk Pine Cone of Craftiness (awesome!) and which a fellow crafter sent to her!  
In addition to these, there are many steampunk Christmas collages, gift tags, and Christmas trees bedecked with gears out there.  Then there are the many vintage images of Victorian & Edwardian Christmas cards with a very steampunk feel to them, as this small selection from my vintage image collection shows:
So, the whole point of this post is to say, Yes, Virginia, you CAN steampunk Christmas.  And from all the cool stuff I've seen online, we really, really should.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Steamwench's Jewelry Box, or, Come See What I've Made!

Hello, all.

As I frantically prepare for my 4th ever experience as a vendor (and all within the last 12 months), this time at my second Christmas Fair, at Imaginarius Fantasticus III, I thought I'd share the contents of the Steamwench's Jewelry Box.

Making jewelry was something I had done just a couple of times, for myself.  I had thought about making it to sell, but I seemed to have so many other things to do, and I wasn't sure how to go about it.  Then, just under a year ago, the opportunity to vend essentially fell into my lap, and even I realized it would be foolish to not give it a whirl. 

What followed was a frantic two solid months of getting all the basic supplies I needed and tinkering away at my tiny work-desk every evening after work, and each weekend.  The pace was frankly insane.  I spent more than I had intended on supplies - which shouldn't have been a surprise, as a costumer, I generally seem to run on the "buy more" principle, since nothing is worse than running out of supplies mid-project.  I also had a bit of misunderstanding about just how much product I needed to make.  I could have made half of what I did, and still had plenty.  Good news is, it has meant I have not needed to create things at such a rabid pace since.

For several years, I had been collecting lovely vintage keys, broken pocket-watch and watch parts, and oddments of broken old and neglected jewelry with interesting detail bits or pieces. I enjoy taking all these old items, and combining them creatively with new or other old items, to create jewelry that has a steampunk or neo-Edwardian aesthetic.  I've also been enjoying creating a few entirely new pieces.  

As we come up to the next Imaginarius Fantasticus, which has a steampunk theme, and at which I will be both vending and running the local steampunk community promotional table & info table, I thought I'd share some photos of some of the jewelry I've created.  (And a shout-out to local Vancouverites, come on by the show if you want to check out my stuff in person!)  

Wish me luck this coming weekend!  And as I hastily put this to press, I have actually changed some of my pieces shown here with some awesome improvements!  (The hot air balloon earrings and pendants now have lovely little silver baskets under them!)

And now, adieu!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Time-Travelling Chemist-Druggist, or, Steampunk Quackery

Greetings, all, and Happy Haunting time of year.

As you settle in with your cup of tea, allow me to, once again, apologize profusely for the infrequency of my sessions here in my Salon.  The ever-difficult battle between making a living for myself so I can keep myself in the fashion to which I've become accustomed, organizing events for the local steampunks, and generally having my fingers in too many pies, leaves me little time for costuming and far less time to share it.

However, I am now able to update you one of my latest endeavors.  At the start of this year, I decided it would be a fun idea to create a steampunk quack doctor or chemist/druggist.  This would be a heavily prop-oriented ensemble, versus costume-oriented.  A quack remedy chemist would be all about the medicines, cures, and promotion. 

I quickly lost myself in research into quack medicines, which is a fascinating subject, and covers easily almost three full centuries.  Bizarre nostrums, paregorics and cures really peaked in the 1700's, and were still quite rampant and weird right through the Victorian era.  It wasn't until the early 1900's that controls started coming into better effect.  Caroline Rance's amazing website, The Quack Doctor was a huge inspiration, and place where I lost many, many hours of fascinated reading.  

Creating a quack persona was one thing, but to steampunk it up, I decided she should be a time-travelling chemist & druggist.  Of course, she must have a set of phenomenal credentials, so I created the credentials of PC, DC, TTE and OMG (because why not!).  In order, that becomes Pharmaceutical Chemist, Dispensing Chemist, Time Travel Expert, and OmniMateria Goods (allowing me to use, animal, mineral, vegetal, and manmade components in my medicaments). Using my own initials and the surname of a favourite SCA persona I'd created years before, voila, T.L. Swyfte, Travelling Chemist. came into being:
This is the design I created for my advertising.  This small sign ended up as a small card in my hat, the inside panel of my medicaments box, and the front page of the advertising booklet of my products, which I created.

I had a convenient medium-sized wooden box I'd picked up at a thrift store with a mind to use it for something, and voila, this became my portable product display, with the addition of a front closure, side catches and two side rings to hold the leather straps to enable to carry the box around.
The truly fun part of this persona was creating the list & descriptions of my products.  Hours and hours of research inspired me to create a selection of my own nostrums, all carrying my trademark name, Swyfte's, and several of which were almost wholly taken from actual medicines from the past.  

Once I'd come up with a list of products, I selected my favourites and wrote up an advertisement for each one, and with the assistance of the many wonderful copyright-free vintage borders and graphics you can find on, created the small ads for my product booklet.  I printed the booklet in black and white, with only the cover in colour, deliberately restricting myself to two colours, to keep things more Victorian in feel.  
A stack of my product booklets
My frontispiece of "company" advertising, and the advert for my Solar Re-Animating Solar Tincture, which is based on an actual quack medicine (and the advert not much different from the original - I just added vampiric conditions to zip it up.  Would have added zombification, except I was running out of room.
Of course, every quack druggist ought to have a paregoric to cure everything.  With dodgy claims of "safe" opium.  I'm quite proud of my Combobulating Serum - entirely my own concept.  Who among us doesn't have days when we wish for some serum of this ilk, to clear our befogged and discombobulated minds! 
Other chemists will produce plasters, but only Swyfte will give you Daily Reassuring Plasters, to both ease your discomfort and to soothe, reassure, and comfort.  And our Defibulating Lozenges are quite popular - reveal untruths by plying suspected fibbers with our cleverly disguised lozenges daily! 
Of course I had to include our own Coca Wine - given it was such a common product that even in the 1890's this could be purchased from your Sears Roebuck catalogue!  And what steampunk gentleman hasn't longed for impressively manly moustaches and muttonchops?  Achieve them with ease with our powerful tonic.
Ah, Time Travel's attendant unpleasant side effect for so many folks - pesky hiccoughs!  Annoying, and downright dangerous if one happens to find oneself trying to discretely hide from predatory beasts (or men) in a past or future aggressive setting.  Our lozenges will help!  And we had to have Ambition Pills (another actual "medicine" from quack history.  And the advert wording very much taken from the original.
The back cover
The next step was, of course the "products" for display.  I purchased small bottles online and whenever I saw appropriately-sized bottles. Playing about with the advertisements I'd created and more fun graphics, I created labels for a selection of my products.
Putting together products, advertising, handouts, and the box, resulted in my travelling case below, which I then carried strapped around my neck and waist.
The joy of this persona is that the clothes are far less relevant.  I took an old military hat, added a pin (Girl Genius trilobite!) and tucked in an advertising card.  The rest was just shirt, corset, long skirt.  Here is the final product of my time-traveling quack chemist, BEST SCIENTIFIC Medicaments in hand - ready to hit the hallways and hawk my wares!
And finally, before I go, I would like to once again thank my main inspiration and sourcing for this concept, Caroline Rance, creator of the fabulous website:, and author of Kill-Grief, and most recently, The Quack Doctor (available on and elsewhere).