Friday, December 27, 2013

"Are You Real?" (Or, Did You Really Just Ask Me That?)

Hello everyone!

Soooo, a couple months ago I posted about how it had been a couple months since I had posted.  And then I proceeded to not post again for a few months, and...well, here we are.  Unfortunately, since my last post, pretty much my only sewing/reenacting/living history achievement has been to finish sewing a tuck in a linen petticoat, which is really boring to look at, even more boring to photograph, and even more boring than that to talk about.  So really, nothing to blog about on that front.

That's not to say I don't have a lot going on, but frankly I don't have a clue as to where I would start, and I'm pretty sure nobody really cares about my personal life anyway.  Historical clothing or GTFO, if you will. :)  So, in lieu of sewing or event content, please accept instead this list of stupid questions that people have asked me during living history work or events in the past.  As a bonus, please also find my internal monologue in italics.  I'm sure some of you can relate all too well!

  • Are you hot in that?
    Yes.  I'm f*#$ing roasting.  It's 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade with about 4,000% humidity and you could poach an egg in my cleavage.  What the hell kind of question is that?
  • Are you real?
    No.  You are hallucinating.  Seek professional help.
  • Do you wish you lived back then?
    I enjoy things like having flush toilets, readily available medical care, and the right to vote and own property.  I currently work out of the home at a job I love which does not involve nursing or teaching, I keep an apartment of my own, and I met my fiance because of the internet.  Pretty sure as a woman at any other time in history, my life would have sucked.  Yes, including the early to mid 20th century.
  • Isn't wearing a corset uncomfortable?
    What, and wearing a bra is a walk in the park?  You try having tits as big as your head hanging on two bits of dental floss that dig into your shoulders all day.  I'd much rather wear the custom-fitted and hand-constructed corset that also offers excellent back support and promotes good posture.
  • Is that a real fire?
    Come stick your head in it and find out.
No doubt we've all had our fair share of poorly considered questions while interacting with the public...what's your favorite crazy question?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Dear Katie...where in the world did you go!? You disappeared off the internet and that's just not nice.

Well, my friends, you see, sometimes real life does this thing where it demands my attention and it's all very tiresome, etc. Also, in case anyone was wondering, moving sucks.

To make a long story short, I've moved to Holland (Michigan, not the Netherlands) to be closer to a new (awesome and wonderful) job. It was a lot of work and I wouldn't have been able to do it without help from my friends and family, but now I'm mostly moved in and starting to feel settled. I can tell because I'm mildly interested in being creative again, which was something that a 60-mile round-trip commute had all but destroyed.

Oh, and I started planning a wedding. Overseas. From 4,000 miles away. Do you know how hard it is to get anyone in England to return an email?! IT'S HARD.

Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out where all my stuff is supposed to go in the new apartment, but it's getting there. Next I think will be some de-stashing because goodness, I have a lot of fabric, and then hopefully some sewing!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Underwear Isn't Optional

I've seen a lot of posts about historical accuracy bandied back and forth across the blogosphere recently.  Part of it has to do with the ongoing "Historical Sew Fortnightly" challenge in which many costumers/reenactors/bloggers are participating.  Some has to do with the ongoing conflict between the various subsets of those who sew historical or historically-inspired garments.  You know, the Pretty Pretty Princesses, the Butter Churners, the Stitch Nazis...don't lie; you've heard them all, and I'd bet you've used at least one of those terms to describe someone at least once before.  That's okay; this isn't about who belongs in what category, or which one shall Reign Supreme.

This is about the fact that I have yet to see anyone mention the importance of underpinnings in any of those "how accurate are you?  how accurate am I?  how accurate should we be?" posts.  And you know what?  They're damn important.

I've seen so many polite debates (and not so polite ones) about how some people just want to feel pretty, some of them want 1,000,000% accuracy, blah blah.  But here's the thing.  If you're not wearing the right underwear, you're going to look wrong.  Full stop.  Historically, people wore specific garments that shaped their bodies in specific ways.  Maybe it was achieved through cording, or whalebone, or steel.  Maybe it was  just strategically cut inner garments with no stiffening.  Doesn't matter.  If you're not wearing the right shaping garments for whatever time period, your silhouette will not be correct.

You can do everything else right--construction techniques, fiber content, witchcraft, whatever--but if you're not wearing the right support structure, you might as well just go home.  Because the number one step in making a historical garment should always include starting with the correct undergarments (or reasonable facsimile thereof).

Which is why I have anxiety dreams about forgetting my corset every time I go to an event.


Thoughts?  Questions?  Comments?  Rotten tomatoes?  Fire away!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Portmanteau, an 18th Century Suitcase

The word portmanteau is actually one of those lovely words that means exactly what it says--it's a combination of the French port, "carry," and manteau, "cloak."  Which is essentially it's function!  In general,  the word just refers to a suitcase, but in a historical context it tends to be a little more specific.

In the 18th century (though I've seen examples up to the 1830s), portmanteaux were often cylindrical or sort of curvy-oblong in shape with a flap that buckled over the opening.  I'll be the first to admit that I haven't done a ton of research, but the look is very iconic and (to me, anyway) recognizably period.  And, I've coveted one for absolutely ages.

Imagine my delight, then, when Samantha and I stumbled across these two beauties at the Kalamazoo Living History Show this year.  They were being sold secondhand, so we got amazing prices, but I looked up the maker's website and let me tell you--the workmanship on these is well worth his normal rate.

These are by Pepe's Possibles, and they are truly works of art.  They're hand stitched out of durable leather, lined in plain cloth, and the opening is bound.  I own the 12" size and (I believe) Samantha snatched up the 18".  I love the rich color of these, and they're such a convenient piece of luggage.  Even my small one will fit a surprising amount...I can fit a small pair of shoes in there, even!  Right now it's got my current sewing projects, my pinball embroidery, and some extra fabric in there with room to spare.  The handles (which are sewn on with little heart embellishments--so sweet!) are the perfect size for three fingers, which, in my opinion, is just about perfect.

A little googling will turn up several places to buy such a piece of luggage (try terms like "18th century portmanteau" and "portmanteau luggage"), and they range in price from just under $100 to over $500.  Pepe's Possibles seems to be on the lower end of the price range (though again, awesome workmanship!), and another affordable option would be Choochcat on Etsy.  I obviously can't speak for customer service, time frame, etc. for either of these vendors since I bought mine secondhand, but they look like good options to me if you've decided you just have to have your own portmanteau.  Which you should.  Because they're awesome!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tucker Kits in the Shop!

Because no 1860s ballgown is complete without a tucker!  Buying your own cotton netting just for a little frill around the neckline of a gown can be annoying--for starters, cotton net usually sells for about $35/yard, and no way do you need that much just for one neckline.  It's hard to find fine fabrics of that sort at chain-type fabric stores, and many online retailers only sell in full yard increments.  And again--you don't usually need a whole yard for a tucker!  What's a girl to do?

With that in mind, I'm trying something out.  I'm offering simple tucker kits in my shop, which include half a yard of cotton net and 2 yards of 2mm silk ribbon for a drawstring (which is optional, but very cute!).  You can have any color you want, as long as it's black. ;)

My listing (above) includes several pictures of reproductions using this same cotton net for a tucker, and here are some originals with pretty tucker variations to get your creative juices flowing.

From The Graceful Lady

Kent State (Thanks Andrew Schroeder, for the tip!)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Tuckers seem to be pretty ubiquitous, and would have served the same function as a collar or cuffs--they help protect the neckline of your dress, and give a finished look.  It'd be easy to baste one into an existing gown, or pick up a kit for your next project.  The sky's the limit!  Head on over to Etsy and take a look.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fort Meigs 2013

Okay, hands up!  Who knew there was an enormous reconstructed 1812 fort in Perrysburg, OH?  Okay...who knew there was a Perrysburg, OH?  Yeah, me either.

Well, okay, I'd heard about Fort Meigs before; a lot of the members of the First Regiment Volunteers are from Ohio and southeast Michigan, so understandably they are quite involved with things at their local historical site.  I'd even been in the visitor center, but never inside the walls.  So when some of them told me there was going to be an event there, I figured it might be time to actually go see the inside of the fort!

You guys, wow.  I was expecting a small walled enclosure, maybe with a few buildings.  Um, no.  It's HUGE!  Maybe four or six Michilimackinacs could have fit inside it, and encampments were gigantic.  Not that any one unit was so large, but there were just so many reenactors that the tents just kept on going as far as you could see!  And it was gorgeous--beautiful weather and pretty landscape all weekend long.  You can't really ask for more than that.

As you can see, Samantha looked fabulous (as ever), and despite the brilliant sunshine all weekend she was able to wear her stunning wool redingote the whole time because of the temperate weather and constant breeze.  Er, well, toward the end of the day on Sunday the breeze became real wind, but the temperature never got unbearably hot or cold--which is rare!

We were very fortunate also to have furniture provided (by other members of the regiment who couldn't be there, but who graciously set up their gear for us to use!) so that we were very comfortable all weekend.  And as ladies have done for centuries, we made good use of the opportunity to visit & chat!  And sew, of course.

All in all, basically a perfect weekend!  I can't wait for the next event...which means I'd better get my rear in gear on some decent outfits!  I've got one almost done--That Stupid Dress (aka the maroon wool that I wore to the regency ball) is SO close to being finished; I'm working on the undersleeves and chemisette that it needs for day-wear, and apparently I'm the slowest stitcher ever.  It'll be done by the end of the season...maybe.

Oh, and as always, more pictures at my Flickr!  Be sure to check them out; there are some shenanigans that didn't make it onto the blog that are worth a chuckle.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Domestic Goddess-hood

This weekend was highly successful and enjoyable on the homemaking front, I must say!  Unfortunately, I was too busy being productive to take pictures, but I do have a recipe to share.

My most rewarding project was making bread.  I love bread...lots of kinds of bread.  Which, if you ask my mom, is kind of a surprise.  When I was little, I hated bread.  I hated eating at Subway because there was so much BREAD in the dang sandwiches.  I wanted the crusts cut off my wonder bread  because there was just tooooo much bread in my sandwich.  Toast?  No. Bagels? Gross.  Don't even talk to me about rolls.  Why.  No.

Now?  Hand me that loaf and keep your fingers out of the way!  Om nom nom.  When I worked at Fort Michilimackinac, I learned how to make all sorts of breads--quick breads, yeast breads, round breads, sweet breads, oaty breads...all tasty!  There was just something magical about popping a raw, floury, doughy lump in a big cast iron pot, shoveling bits of smoldering wood on top, and then lifting the lid an hour later to find a beautiful, fluffy, golden loaf.  Science?  Magic?  Doesn't matter!  Pass the butter.

I used to make bread a lot when I lived with my parents.  When they renovated their kitchen, they specifically designed their breakfast bar to sit a little higher than a normal counter top so that my dad could make bread on it, so it was an optimal height and width for kneading dough.  Now, at my own place, I have very little counter space and a lot of random not a lot of space to splash down some flour and go six rounds with some yeast.  Also, I'm super impatient and I don't like the fact that yeast is extremely selfish and takes FOREVER to rise--twice!  Then, I found this recipe:

Simply So Good Crusty Bread
See the original blog post here!

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours.  Overnight works great.  Heat oven to 450 degrees.  When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating.  Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.  

As far as I can figure, this really is a foolproof bread.  Seriously; you dump your stuff in a bowl, leave it alone for half a day, and then throw it in the oven (more or less).  Forty-five minutes later, you have fresh, homemade bread with a crispy crust and delicious chewy inside.  And, as you can see in the linked post, it's easy to add stuff--I currently have a batch of rosemary-garlic at home on my stove, waiting for me to get home and bake it.  How easy is that?!

I'm happy to report that the first experimental loaf barely lasted the weekend.  I took it over to my folks' house for a visit and came home with the last couple of slices in a plastic baggie.  It's just really good bread!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Shop is Open!

After a bit of a hiatus (traveling, getting a new job, computer death, etc), my Etsy shop is open again!  In addition to fabric and some ready-made accessories,  I'm now listing some custom-made items; the first one to go up is a tucked 1860s petticoat like mine, which I love:

I'll be adding some more things in the next few days.  Real life keeps slowin' me down, man!  First my laptop died, then I remembered that I'm a grown-up and have to do things like taking out the trash and going to the grocery store...boring!  I'm-a keep working on it, though, so check back soon (like, hopefully tomorrow) for more cool stuff!

Edited to Add:
I've put up another listing, but more importantly I wanted to also let everyone know that my good pal Samantha at The Couture Courtesan is also taking commissions as soon as school is over, which is in just a couple weeks now...and her handwork on delicate fabrics is unreal.  If you're interested in a super-fancy cap, apron, or something like it, you should hop on that as soon as possible.  Obviously I don't have the money (why do you think I'm Etsy-ing?) but I know if I did she'd be the first person I'd pay for a really nice bit of fluff to put on my head.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tiny Treasures: the Radiant Ring

Someday I will get tired of making dorky titles for my blog posts.  Today is not that day.

I also will not soon tire of looking at pretty things, and it just so happens that this is one of the prettiest things I I thought I'd share!

Garnet & Pearls, two of my favorite things!

I actually initially found this ring from a link on Facebook; one of my reenacting friends was recommending an eBay seller to another friend, and I decided, what the heck, why not take a look?  Oh dear.  Remember the tiny watch fob I found for Rich?  This was from the same seller.  I am nothing if not consistent in my tastes.

Tucked safely in its box
This was listed as a Georgian piece, dated around 1810-20.  There's some wear on the pearls, but overall it's in quite good condition and everything seems to be safe & secure in its setting.

Not precisely small, but flat and easy to wear
While this ring was briefly an option while Rich and I were choosing an engagement ring, I'm much happier with the idea of it as a special-occasion item.  It's fairly large compared to my normal choice of hand jewelry, although I appreciate how low a profile it has.  Also, I'm not paranoid about damaging it, per se, but I think it would make me nervous to wear an item that valuable & old every day.  What if I broke it?!  Think of the trauma!  This way, I can haul it out for special occasions and historical happenings, enjoy it, and then put it back in its cozy little box to wait safely until the next time.

Yep, still pretty!

Friday, April 5, 2013

PSA for Size 8 Feet

Sometimes wearing a size 8 shoe is frustrating--it's a fairly common size in adult women, so a lot of times it'll sell out quickly and I won't be able to find the shoes I want in my size.  Then, sometimes it pays off.

If you wear size 8s and are looking for an inexpensive Regency/1812 shoe, try David's Bridal Outlet.

Sure, they're not perfect--however the "accurate" versions on the market at the moment also have things about them that I either personally dislike, or that I don't find terribly accurate either.  Also, these are $9.99.  That's right--I just paid $16.95 WITH SHIPPING.

I've done a lot of looking at historical shoes in the past several months, and the conclusion I've come to is if you truly want something perfect, you're going to have to do something like Nicole at Diary of a Mantua Maker has done and go the totally-historical route--and also learn an entirely new art.  In my eye, the mass-produced options available still fall short of the accuracy mark, which makes me extremely unwilling to drop over $60 or even $100 on a shoe that still isn't right.  If I can find something that is attractive, at least as accurate for my purposes as the commercially reproduced versions, and costs less than $20?  I know which one I'm going to pick!  And yeah, I'm snipping that bow off as soon as they arrive.

For my purposes, these work in terms of shape better than a pointy-toed option, based on museum examples c. 1800-20.  I'm going for around 1810-12 most of the time, which tended to have a rounder toe box than the 1790s versions that have been available to the general public lately.  The very flat sole is also consistent with both extant and illustrated examples that I've seen dating from around 1804 up to about 1820.  I say "up to" simply because my research doesn't extend into the 20s, not because flat soles and round toes didn't exist into the 20s or even 30s!

So in conclusion--if you have size 8 feet and would prefer to go easy on your wallet...check it out while they last!  Or, if you need a different size, try this style for an affordable option.  It has all the good points I just mentioned, is still darn cheap for a pair of decent historical shoes, and also comes in multiple sizes including wide widths.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One Lovely Blog Award!

I've never done one of these before, but since I haven't taken pictures for my intended post yet, I figure this will make a nice interlude.  Also, you don't know it yet, but there's a pun in the title--and you all know how I feel about title-y puns!

My dear Samantha at The Couture Courtesan awarded me this because she is a sweetie and a love.  Oh, and she makes beautiful stuff!  If you don't already follow her blog, you really should.

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Add the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ image to your post.
3. Share seven things about you.
4. Pass the award on to seven nominees.
5. Include this set of rules.
6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.

Let's see...I'm not sure there are seven things about me that aren't hideously boring, but I'll give it a shot!
  1. When I was about 8 years old, my parents took me to Colonial Michilimackinac, an 18th century fort and trading post in Northern Michigan.  I fell in love and vowed I'd work there some day.  Eleven years later, I did just that!  Working as a costumed interpreter there really sparked my love of history, material culture, and historical clothing, and I definitely would not be where I am today without having had that experience.  I also met several wonderful people with whom I am still fast friends!
    A day in the life of an interpreter...getting "married" for the 2nd time that day.
  2. I keep rats, and although I know some people think it's weird, they're honestly the best pets I could ever ask for.  They're very sweet and social, with distinct personalities and a surprisingly high level of intelligence.  I started out with three boys a few years ago and although that little family of sweethearts has passed on, I've got four girls and two baby boys now that I adore.  The only downside is that they only live about two years, and saying goodbye is always hard.  It's totally worth it, though.
    Samantha getting some quality time with one of my first babies, Babbington
  3. Horseback riding is my #1 favorite type of exercise.  Right now my poor Jackson has a 'sports injury' and my instructor has been transitioning her lessons to her own property due to unforeseen circumstances at the barn we'd been using, so my schedule has been a little off...but I'm looking forward to warmer weather and hopefully Jackson making a full recovery soon!
    Cheeky horsie
  4. I'm bilingual, fluent in both English and Spanish.  I know I've surprised some of my friends before, especially at events--I'll bust out the Spanish with a visitor or family and people who had no idea I could speak it get the greatest looks on their faces!
  5. Coffee is my drug of choice.  In the morning, do not speak to me until I have had a cup of it--at least one.  I've been drinking coffee ever since I could sit up and it doesn't look like I'm going to quit anytime soon!
  6. I've had an online journal of some sort for over ten years now.  I can't even count the number of friends I've made in that time--some of my most long-term friends are people I've never met in person!  I don't know about you but I'm pretty sure that's awesome.
  7. And lastly but most importantly, I just got engaged!  My boyfriend-now-fiancee Rich came to visit from England (yes, he has an accent) over Easter and proposed on Monday.  He's pretty jet lagged from his flight home (boo) right now I think, but we're both excited and the outpouring of support and congratulations from our friends both online and in person has been overwhelming and very touching.
    Ze ring!
And, my nominations!

....Right, now I remember why I never do these things.  Because how can I possibly pick!?!?

Remember how I mentioned some of my superlongtime friends are from the internets?  Jen's one of them, and I love her cooking blog.  She may or may not know it, but her blogging has inspired me to be more adventurous in the kitchen, and also, who doesn't love pretty pictures of yummy food?

Ginger is another internet friend, although we have actually met in real life--twice!  She was more than a little instrumental in getting me into 1860s clothing, and I've had tons of fun watching her ace outfit after outfit in new periods.

I basically consider Jesse part of the family, and am in awe of her crafting abilities.  Sure, I make historical clothing...but I can't craft to save my life!  She does adorable cake pops, super cute bags, and the crochet aviator hat she made for her son last Halloween is basically the best thing I've ever seen.

I just can't even describe this stuff.  This gal is self-taught...and if I had half her skill I would absolutely die.  And also her figure.  And her hair.  If I didn't like her so much I'd hate her, but her stuff is so pretty and she's so nice and so gracious!

Basically, I am in awe of anyone who can knit.  I taught myself how to once and then decided I hated it...I was so slow!  This blog not only has awesome knitting, it's historical knitting.  Seriously.  Amazing.

Great 1860s stuff, kid patterns, and cute pictures.  What's not to love?  I was fortunate enough to meet Amy once in real life at an 1860s event in Texas, and we had great fun socializing...and playing with her adorable daughter.  

Okay, there's a lot of beautiful stuff here but seriously?  I've never seen one person make SO MANY beautiful pairs of stays.  How.  I don't...what.  How do you even?  Seriously beautiful.  And she's cute as a button in her pictures!

P.S. This seriously took me all day because I thought of five random facts about myself and then got stuck on a sixth for about five hours.  Eesh!

P.P.S. The pun I mentioned?  Rich's last name (and my future one!) is Lovely.  Get it?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Regency Dancing!

Several years ago, there was an annual regency ball in moved to South Bend for a while, but now it's back in Michigan so Samantha, Julie, my mom, and I all snapped up tickets and made a night of it.

It was a very bustling event, with the floor just bursting with dancers all night long.  It had been a long time since I'd done anything but Civil War dances and it was great fun to get back to my roots, so to speak.  The style is quite different, and the dances were really beautiful to watch as well as dance.

I managed to finish a new dress for the evening; it was the one I started last June, hated the sleeves, and quit working on for six months.  I'll post about it soon; I still want to make undersleeves for it, and it was just dark enough not to photograph terribly well in the low light.

A beautiful evening all told, and I'm thrilled for the ball to be back in Michigan.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

But what *is* it?

So after posting yesterday's entry, I realized that I glossed over quite a bit of information that could potentially be interesting to some.  I talked about fichu- or lace-pins, as well as hairwork, but only very briefly.

From Candice Hern
I like doing research as much as the next guy, but there are already a couple of pages out there that cover the information.  Because of this, I am going to defer to greater minds than I and link elsewhere for further reading

Georgian Woven-Hair Lace Pins
This article covers both of the above topics, and has some wonderful photos.  I love variety in both the pins and the weaving patterns!

18th Century Women's Fichus and Neckerchiefs lists mostly examples of actual kerchiefs, but if you go way down to the bottom of the article there are several links to original lace-pins at the British Museum's website.

Happy reading! (And, of course, looking at pictures of sparkly jewelry!)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tiny Treasures: an Itty-Bitty Brooch

Okay, I admit it: when I found this brooch on Ebay, I didn’t expect it to be quite so tiny.  I’m delighted with it, though, and it’ll be the perfect size for wearing on a neckerchief, which I suspect may have been its original purpose.   The modern term would be a fichu pin, sometimes also called a lace-pin.

Tiny, empty brooch
What attracted me to this teeny thing was the fact that it was falling apart.  Sounds silly, right?  Well, the thing is that I’ve been fascinated with the history of hairwork for a while, and I covet a piece  of my own.  There are only two problems with that: One, antique hairwork is fairly expensive.  Two, the idea of wearing a stranger’s hair from two hundred years ago really weirds me out if I think about it too hard.

No seriously, itty-bitty!
I could go down the rabbit hole of hairwork jewelry, but that’s a whole ‘nother entry!  The upshot is that while I’m a little freaked out by the idea of wearing a stranger’s hair, I have no problem with the idea of wearing hair belonging to a loved one--my loved one, not someone else’s!  I suspect that was really the point of hairwork in the first place, but that leaves the conscientious historian in a quandary.  Do you buy a hairwork piece that grosses you out and wear it anyway?  Buy a hairwork piece and (gasp) take it apart to replace the hair? 

C-clasp and solid back
Neither!  You buy a brooch that’s already empty and falling apart, then sneak up on your significant other while he/she is sleeping and steal some hair make inquiries about having it repaired and filled with the hair of your loved one(s).

One edge of the glass popping up in the corner
Even in pieces, this is really a beautiful, dainty little piece of work.  It’s 9kt gold, according to the seller (another Ebay find), and the pearls are all there and in pretty good shape.  The glass was wedged in tightly enough not to fall out in shipping, but a little prod with my fingernail popped it right out—which was a relief, since I was worried about breaking it in the process of removing it!

Glass removed successfully!
So, next up is to contact some hairwork artists and see if they can do anything with it, and if so, how much it’ll cost.  I’d hate to invest so much I’d be scared to wear it!  Updates to follow as the situation warrants.

And a little...thingie. What would you call that, a bezel?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tiny Treasures: the Wee Watch Fob

This tiny watch fob is one of my favorite antique finds ever.  I’d been searching high and low for a trinket-type gift for my favorite fella, with limited success.  He’s not big on jewelry, he’s a little picky (for a guy), and there just didn't seem to be anything out there.

So tiny and lovely

When I found it, I was actually looking for something else on Ebay.  I don’t remember what, because as soon as I saw this I basically dropped everything and ran in little circles shrieking with delight.  It’s adorable!  It’s perfect!  And it has his name on it!


No seriously, how amazing is that?  I mean, it’s not like his name is Epaphroditus or Aloisius or something.  Richard is a good, normal name that’s been around a while, but I know very few people who just stumble across lovely antiques that basically say “buy me; I belong to you! (or your boyfriend)”

Also, it was the first thing I’d showed him that got “I love it!” as a reaction.  Clearly he has impeccable taste in antiques.

Because Rich and Tea (and therefore tea pots) go together
According to folks more knowledgeable than I am, it’s a Georgian piece that dates probably to about 1820ish.  It’s made of pinchbeck, which is a type of brass (copper and zinc) mixed to look like gold.  Personally, I can’t tell the difference!  The stamping surface is black glass with teeny-tiny letters stamped or engraved into the surface.

I'm running out of things to say...
So, all in all I'm really thrilled with this little guy, and I'm looking forward to getting Rich a pocket watch so he can actually use it.  Of course, I then have to make the clothes with the pockets for the pocket watch...oh boy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Les Rivières: Deuxième Partie

Updated Nov 22, 2013: please see bold below

(I used Google Translate for that title, so if it's wrong please tell me.  I'm bilingual, but French ain't one of my linguas.)

Napoleon & the Empire of Fashion
Angeline, c. 1810
I don't know about you guys, but after that last post about collet or rivière style necklaces, I found myself in need of some serious retail therapy.  I mean, I'm a no-frills kind of girl, but who doesn't love a pretty bit of sparkle?  Luckily for you, I'm being strict with myself on spending, so my shopping is all just window-shopping.  Fortunately, you get to benefit from my browsing!

So, as far as owning your own rivière, there are two options.  Original, or reproduction?  Mostly, it depends on how much of a purist you are, and how much money you want to spend.  For an original, you can expect to spend a few hundred dollars, minimum.  If you have the cash to burn, you could easily drop five figures (and be sure to invite me over to see it.)  For the rest of us, you can nab a repro for less than a couple hundred...phew!

Citrine Collet by Duchessa Jewels

My first pick for a beautiful repro at a decent price is definitely Duchessa Jewels.  Duchessa offers a variety of stones and metals to suit your fancy, and although they're a modern take on a period classic I think creator Nerida Aylott definitely maintains the timeless aesthetic of the collet style rather than specifically recreating extant objects from a certain era.  The website cites a Georgian influence, but I see similarities in Victorian pieces, too.  Overall I'd say it's a good look for a respectable price...and on her blog, she mentions that a lot of other things are for sale, so I'd say contact her if you're interested in matching earrings, bracelets, etc.

Sacred Cake on Etsy

Next up is Sacred Cake on Etsy.  These are really pretty, and come about as close as the ones from Duchessa...the settings are different from period examples, but the way they're linked is similar, so in my opinion it's a matter of preference--six of one, half a dozen of the other, so to speak.  They're also slightly cheaper, so you'd have more money left over to buy fabric...right?  Unless, of course, you pick up a matching pair of earrings while you're browsing on Etsy.  You can check out the owner, Jennifer Valentine, on her blog.

Try me instead!  Link below.

Taylor Shelby at Dames a la Mode is running a by-reenactors-for-reenactors operation to fill a previously empty niche in the market of much-needed pretty things for historically minded people.  She sells beautiful ribbons and excellent millinery flowers and leaves, and has recently expanded her repertoire to include gorgeous collets and sets in the style we've been discussing here.  Her prices absolutely cannot be beat, and I would definitely say she is now my favorite one-stop-shop for period pretty things.  Also, definitely do contact her about custom work if you've got a particular desire; she's really great!
Antique Silver Gold Garnet Paste Riviere Necklace C1900
by CJ Antiques Ltd
By Juicy Couture

Let's talk about my love-hate relationship with Ebay.  There are some great deals to be had on Ebay, and I love a deal.  On the other hand, there are some great deals to be had on Ebay...and my wallet cries every time I go there.  Above are two examples of good deals, both for different reasons.  The top example is an original piece currently listed at what seems to be a great price.  The bottom example is a modern piece, released by Juicy Couture but currently out of stock on their website and listed several places on Ebay for less than the original price.  As far as antiques go, I highly recommend CJ Antiques friend Julie linked me to them on Facebook and since then I've bought a Georgian garnet & pearl ring and a watch fob from them.  They're super nice, great about layaway, and have some really nice stuff.  Remember that love-hate thing?  I love wallet doesn't!

Now, I understand not everyone is in the business of getting things as accurate as possible and some people just want as much sparkle as humanly possible.  In my internetty wanderings, I did come up with a few really pretty pieces that aren't quite accurate enough for my taste but might be just your cup of tea.  Etsy is a gold mine, what can I say?

By ParisiJewelry
By ParisiJewelry
By Bouvier Jewelry
By Bouvier Jewelry
So there we go!  We've got more than a little sparkle, and quite enough to go around.  Whether you want an original to finish off your period impression, or a bold statement for a modern outfit, the collet style might be just the thing.  Happy shopping!

Some of you may have noticed this post seems to have been fluctuating a lot lately.  There's a bit more information in my January 7th, 2014 entry, but long story short is that there was some drama, it's over now, and I'm not editing this post anymore.  Everyone should go buy some nice shiny jewelry and be happy! :) 

Friday, March 1, 2013

What do you "collet?"

(Trust me, you'll think that title is funny in a minute...or at least worthy of a groan.)

Ever had one of those days where you have the perfect outfit but you just can't decide what jewelry to wear with it? Well, never fear: it happened to our ancestors, too.
By Charles Howard Hodges

That's right, Grandma. WEAR ALL THE BLING.

Anyway, this portrait is what got me started, really. There's obviously a lot going on there, but my favorite is her rivière necklace. That's the really shiny one with all the stones, also called (wait for it...) a collet necklace. A bit of browsing on the interwebs told me that there are actually plenty of originals still around, although they can range in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. They also range in date from the mid to late 18th century all the way up to the early 20th century and it seems that the style was indeed popular for over a century (for those who could afford it, of course.)

The earliest examples of rivière necklaces I found date from around 1760 (though let it be known that I'm definitely not an expert on earlier periods!), like the one worn in this portrait of Anne Fairchild Bowler, wife of Rhode Island merchant Metcalf Bowler.

By John Singleton Copley c. 1763
National Gallery of Art
This mannequin from the Kyoto Costume Institute is decked out in all her mid-18th century splendor, wearing a similar necklace, down to the pendant hanging from the center.

KCI Digital Archives, 1750-60
It's not terribly uncommon to see matching pendants on this style of necklace; some of them were even removable, so the necklace could be worn in different ways.  Pretty clever, considering what these things must have cost!  This one c. 1780 has a little hooky bit on the center stone so you can dangle something off it if you want...

Golden Topaz collet necklace c. 1780
S.J. Phillips Ltd

Here's another example that belonged to First Lady Elizabeth Monroe around 1817, so while we're jumping ahead a bit on the timeline you can still see how similar the styles are.

National Museum of American History
The settings vary in intricacy, some being very simple and some with a little more flair.  The whole point was to cover as little as possible of the gem, though, so you won't typically see anything too chunky around the stones.  Here's a closeup of a garnet rivière  c. 1800, where you can see the decorative "beading" on the gem mounts.

Third Floor Antiques

The early 19th century had a lot to offer in terms of surviving orignals and portraiture featuring the collet necklace.  Sometimes it's part of a set or parure, sometimes it stands alone.  Below is a gorgeous example of an opal parure owned by Hortense Bonaparte.

Château d'Arenenberg, musée Napoléon
Yeah, want.  Grabby hands...definitely!  Fortunately for those of us who don't bear the title "reine," there are some examples around that are just as nice, even if they aren't as extensive a collection.
From Antiques & Uncommon Treasures

Okay, so I'm not 100% sure that's a collet necklace, but there's a good argument for it given the level of detail in the miniature.  Besides, isn't she lovely?  She was sold as simply "Lady in Tiara," and I love the unusual, bright color and the way it matches her other accessories.  It's also a nice example of a partial set, since she's not wearing any other visible pieces (earrings, bracelets, brooches, etc.)  Also, it's nice to see that the stones in these necklaces (and sets) weren't always diamonds or precious stones...sometimes you see "soft" stones or semiprecious gems, too.

Gold & Agate Rivière c. 1830 
No. 1 Mayfare
The above necklace is not only an example of the use of cabochons as opposed to faceted stones, but also shows a graduated style--the stones in the center front are bigger than those in the back.  You can actually see that in a couple of the examples above, but there seems to be a pretty even mix among the samples I saw.  I assume it was personal taste as well as what you could afford that dictated which style you'd wear!

Almost a hundred years after the earliest examples I saw, the rivière is still in fashion--quite a feat, given how much styles changed in that intervening century!  Franz Xavier Winterhalter painted a portrait of Queen Victoria in 1859 wearing a rivière of diamonds...which means it can't have gone too much out of style, right?

Wikimedia Commons
And it wasn't just the royals.  The fashion in this portrait of Maria Pia of Savoy puts it right in the middle of the 19th century, and here's another collet necklace making a prominent appearance.

Wikimedia Commons, no artist given
Pretty spiffy, eh?  One style of necklace, spanning a hundred years of fashion!  But wait, there's more.  This survived up into the 20th century!  This next one is gorgeous, with some extra detailing on the settings and a beautiful bright, sunny color.  Also, the circular stones are a bit unique...lots of the originals seem to be oval, or oblong, but I've only seen a couple circles.

Citrine rivière necklace, circa 1870
Simon Teakle

For the most part, the style stayed pretty similar over a couple hundred years, with minor details (to my eye, anyway) that differentiate when each one was made.  The example below dates to the early 20th century, and you can see in the closeup that there are only a few differences between it and the earlier examples above.

Early 20th Century Amethyst Paste Necklace
The Three Graces 
I guess the takeaway from this is that everyone loves a shiny, right?  So maybe you don't end up like the woman in the first portrait I posted, with every single piece of jewelry you own bedecking your figure...but as far as history is concerned, you can't go wrong with a timeless rivière.

And, P.S.  Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue apparently agrees.  Can't argue with that fashion advice, eh?  Yeah, that's right...not one, not two, but THREE apparently original collet necklaces.  If only...right?

Oh, P.P.S.  If you'd like a couple more pictures that I didn't publish here, feel free to visit my Pinterest board, A Riviere Runs Through It (grooaaaaannnn)