Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A bit off topic but I just gotta say it...8000 year old brain!

I just read this very interesting little post in the blog "Ting och Tankar", written by archaeologist Åsa Larsson. Since not all of you speak Swedish, let me summarize it for you...

The stone age excavations in Motala (in Sweden) have resulted in some very interesting finds. For example, skeletal remains appear to have been placed on poles, sticking out of the water, some 7500-8000 years ago.

Now what's REALLY interesting, is the lump of organic material inside one of the skulls... Which has turned out to be the remains of a brain!

Yes, you heard me. A brain. 7500-8000 years old! Isn't that incredible!? And they are currently analyzing it in the search for a method to detect brain damage in unconscious patients... Wonderful!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Red taffeta dress finished, yay!!!

It is done! My first piece of modern sewing, a red silk taffeta dress made specifically for my cousin's wedding this Saturday. It's not perfect, but I've learned a whole lot and I really like the result.

I am especially fond of the collar and neckline, I feel incredibly comfortable in it! If only the lining would stop popping out... I have hand sewn around the neckline which made it look much better, but still the lining pops out. I guess I should place some stitches further in, keeping the flimsy fabric away.

Now, it doesn't look like it in the pictures but just before the photo shoot I carefully ironed the skirt... But obviously the taffeta doesn't want to stay neat and tidy, as it took about 10 seconds to undo the ironing.

Now, I can't wait to get started with my next sewing project!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hemline stitches according to my grandmother

When I was a kid my grandmother showed me how to sew hemlines properly. I have no idea what the stitches are called, but it works just fine. The red taffeta dress I'm working on of course needed to have the hemline stitched by hand (I really didn't want a visible seam at the edge!) so I thought I'd take the time to show you what my grandmother taught me.

First, you do a tiny stitch above the hem, from the right to the left.

Then, moving the needle to the right, do a larger stitch through the hem (without penetrating the outer fabric), also from right to left. Then do another tiny stitch in the fabric above, further to the right. And so on and so on.

The result is a very flexible seam that is hardly visible from the outside. Do any of you know what the stitches are called?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What I have learned (dress making problems)

I have to admit it, I'm completely inexperienced when it comes to modern sewing. Yet, the trouble I've had with the red taffeta dress aren't really due to the modernity of the piece... Last night when the dress was almost done and I tried it on I was completely disappointed, it didn't look good at all. After all of this work I felt incredibly frustrated (and I still do!) but I will try to learn from my mistakes and do better next time.

What I have learned (checklist for future sewing)

  • Make absolutely sure that you have enough fabric for the pattern! No guessing, measure!!!
  • Don't attach the lining to the outer fabric until the very end, as to make sure that NO seams are visible!
  • When attaching the skirt to the top... make absolutely sure that it's sewn onto the correct height, by pinning it on first while wearing it!
  • Buy enough thread for the entire piece. 
  • Have enough time to re-do at least a few of the seams, as some things will probably always go wrong.

As you might have guessed, I haven't finished the dress yet. I'm bringing the dress to work today so I can untack a couple of seams which I must re-do tonight, if I can just get a hold of some more thread. Keep your fingers crossed... I have to finish it tonight, no excuses!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Continued sewing

Isn't the blogging community wonderful? When it came to sewing the zipper to the back of the dress I didn't have a clue of how to proceed. The store clerk who helped me pick out a zipper guided me to a hidden sort, that's supposed to be more or less invisible. But how on earth is it done? Well, I simple googled "sy dragkedja" (Swedish for "sewing  zipper") look what came up - a wonderful little tutorial from a blog called Josefin Design. Thank you Josefin, you cleared it all up for me!

So now the zipper is in place. I just spent way too long trying to get the pleats on either side of the chest symmetrical, and what's left to do with the top is fix the sleeves and cuffs. The collar is already done (and I love it!) and the lining is fastened to the taffeta.

I'll try to get the sleeves and cuffs done tonight, and then the only thing left for tomorrow is the skirt (which I haven't even cut out the pieces for yet!). Hopefully this time plan will work, because I really want to have the dress finished before Monday.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dress making - cutting out the pieces

 The other day I finally cut out the pieces of my new dress, in this gorgeous red taffeta. As usual our two fur balls demanded to be a part of the process, watching and interfering a bit now and then. Gosh, this is definitely the scariest part of sewing! I just can't afford to make mistakes at this point...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How to weave edging strips with a rigid heddle while at the same time selling insurances

1. Put your headset on!
2. Put your feet (or at least one foot) up on the desk.
3. Fasten one end the warp on your big toe, and the other end around your waist.
4. Start to weave.
5. Don't forget to keep talking to your clients!
6. Ignore weird looks from fellow office workers.
7. Sell enough to make the others jealous.
8. Explain for the hundredth time that weaving while working actually helps your concentration.
9. Don't bother to untie yourself from the warp while on a coffee break (everyone already thinks you're a bit weird), just let it hang from your waist.

So I finally finished my first edging strip woven directly onto the fabric, with a rigid heddle. The result is a small pouch, the perfect size for keeping my hemp head cloth out of harm's way while I'm not using it. I'm pretty pleased, although the linen fabric in itself turned out to be a bit too easily unraveled. This meant I had to take rather large stitches into the fabric, or else the edging strip wouldn't have stayed on, so it might not be the prettiest in the world. But for a first try I think it's pretty good, or what do you think? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Unicorn embroidery finished!

...or, at least it's almost finished. The actual unicorn is done, but then of course I will be a lot more work later when I attach it to the dress. Then I have plans for even more embroidery which will go on the same outfit... But for now I'm happy. It's a bit too cute and princessy but together with the rest I think it'll work just fine.

If you didn't read my earlier post about this embroidery and the 14th century original, here it is

My version looks quite different despite my attempts to follow the original closely. As I mentioned before I had some trouble with the head, where the lines were drawn just a mm outside of where they should be, resulting in the head looking 'thicker' than the original. I really wanted to fix that but I couldn't, not without redoing the entire head. But other than that... Well obviously I had to create the parts that were too worn off to be seen in the picture, and I chose to add the same kind of tail and horn as can be seen in other medieval unicorns.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Working on the toille...

This evening I spent some time working on the toille, with quite a lot of help from Marcus. After a whole lot of thinking the other day I came to the conclusion that the lovely golden fabric I bought for the purpose of making this dress, was just not right for this purpose. Thus after an extra trip to the fabric store (I must be one of their best customers!) I returned home with three meters of dark red taffeta, which I hope will look good on me.

The there was the toille. I tried it on, pulled at it, thought hard, tried it on again, and sighed. It just didn't look good. And it wasn't a problem with the fitting... it was the pattern in itself that just didn't look good on me. The waist was fine, very fitted and nice, but above that everything was a fluffy mess and not fitted at all. 

But screw the pattern, I want a dress that looks good on me! After all, the point here is not to make an authentic 1950s dress but to make something pretty. So I simply cut off the sleeves of the toille and completely reworked the sleeves and how they connected to the rest. And the result looks SO much BETTER! Now lets just hope that it looks as good with the red taffeta!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lingonberry syrup part I: recipe from 1873

My favorite cook book is a worn little thing, published in 1873: Husmanskost. En hjälpreda för sparsamma husmödrar. ( which means approximately "Homely cooking for frugal housewives.") I got it from an antiquarian bookshop a couple of years ago, and immediately fell in love with it. One of the recipes that I've been longing to try out is called Lingonvatten med honung - "lingonberry syrup with honey". 

Since my mother was kind enough to give me some lingonberries this weekend I could finally give it a go. The original recipe, translated to English (my translation) and with modern measurements, reads like this: 

Lingonberry syrup
Ripe lingonberries are rinsed in water, carefully as not to break them (remove those that float with a perforated spoon), and let drain off on a clean towel. A copper cauldron is put on the fire with 15,6 l of water, dip a wooden stick in it and make a mark at the surface, then add another 15,6 l of water and 5,1 kg of brown sugar, and let it boil (removing the foam) until only 15,6 l remain as is shown by the stick. This sugar water is then poured into stone jars to cool down. The next day 15,6 l of the lingonberries are placed ín a well-flavored barrel , onto which the sugar water is poured, a bunghole is put in place and the barrel put in a room where it will be stirred every day. After 14 days 26 grams of cinnamon, 3, 25 grams of crushed and rinsed cardamoms, a piece of "violrot" (I couldn't find the English translation of this!), 33 cl of frensh wine is also added, the bunghole is once again fastened and the barrel put in a cellar. When it has rested for 6 weeks, the syrup is strained and poured into bottles, sealed with resin and stored in the cellar. At summertime this syrup is used to mix with drinking water.

Lingonberry syrup with honey
Treat the lingonberries as described above. 31,2 l of water is boiled in a clean copper cauldron. 3,9 l of honey and 0,65 l of water is boiled separately in a clean kettle, taken off the fire and foam removed,  put back on the fire, taken off and foam removed, after which it is poured into the boiling water in the copper cauldron, but be careful not to let it spill over since the honey rises a lot. It is now boiled down 10,4 l, then the cauldron is taken off the fire, the syrup poured into stone jars which will rest until the next day. 15,6 l of lingonberries is then added to a barrel, the honey water is poured cold over them, after which they will be treated as described in the previous recipe.

So yesterday I prepared the sugar water and mixed it with the boiled honey, and today I added this mixture to the lingonberries. There is just one thing that I'm worried about... You see where it says to remove all the berries that float? Well... as I placed the berries in water about half of them float. Yup, half. And since I was already making a rather small batch (about one fourth of the original recipe) I didn't want to remove that much! The berries that float weren't bad in any way, they looked ok but I guess they weren't as ripe as those that sank to the bottom. So in other words, if the end result isn't good I have something to blame it on. That, or the fact that I didn't have a copper cauldron or stone jars, or even a wooden barrel (I had to make due with stainless steel and plastic...).

Next, I will have to stir the mixture every day for two weeks. I really really really hope that it wont get moldy... I'll keep you posted! 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Things don't always go as planned...(& some ramblings about sustainability)

I didn't get to the Iron Age event at Gamla Uppsala after all. Sad, but seeing that I'm still not completely well I felt that I couldn't spend two days outdoors - I just can't miss any more days of work so I have to be well until Monday! But I guess there will be more opportunities in the future... :(

And yes, this means that I didn't get my peplos done either, so no new pics either.

Anyhow, I was just sitting here and thinking, so I thought I might as well post my thoughts here! Who knows, I might inspire a thought in one of you? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well.

I've been thinking about sustainability. Keeping the earth along with all her inhabitants safe. Because even though my interests often lie in the past, I often wonder about the future and how we can pull ourselves out of this mess. We're using up raw materials at a frightening pace, while at the same time flooding the environment with trash! It's really quite insane, thinking that we can keep this up; sooner or later we will run out of resources. And we'll all be living on a dump.

Now some people simply call out to all consumers to STOP BUYING THINGS! At least, to stop buying NEW things. But however good it feels to shop second hand in order to spare our environment we simply can't all do that, our economy would completely fail as a result! Which wouldn't be good for us, and certainly would not be good for the environment either (since no one would be able to afford the green alternatives). So I just don't think it's a good solution to simply stop buying things.

What I do feel very strongly for, is a change in attitude. Trash is just another type of raw material, it's not waste. Up here in Sweden we are relatively good at this, we have a lot of recycling of materials going on on a large scale. At least when it comes to glass and metal. Most of the other stuff we just burn. Which of course isn't all bad either considering we draw a whole lot of power from it! But considering how much time and money went into making all of those products that we burn, I can't help thinking that more should be recycled.

And by the way, if you're living in a country where all the trash is just piled up and "forgotten"... landfills are insane and scary!

I feel my mind is slipping into more general ramblings, so I should probably try to end this post somehow. Just think about it next time you throw stuff out. As soon as I move to a house with a bit more garden space I will start my own compost. If a piece of clothing gets a tare I'll try to mend it. If that's not possible I'll try to cut it up and use the fabric for something else. Especially buttons and zippers should be saved! The goal isn't to stop buying new clothes, it's to lengthen the lifespan of the garment/fabric so one doesn't have to buy new stuff as often. Which would also mean that one can afford a bit more expensive clothes as well, so it should be possible to get better quality and more environmentally friendly products!

Generally, I think that's the way to go. Don't try to STOP consuming. Just slow things down. Extend the lifespan of the materials we've already put to use. Support companies and organizations that recycle on a larger scale. Have fun, be creative, and make beautiful objects that will last. And if you've read this entire post - thank you! And if you have any suggestions on what ordinary people can do, please write me a comment! Or if you just want to say hi...  Thank you for reading!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Runic sticks made by our friends

Tonight's blog post isn't actually about something I've made, or planned to make. This time, I thought I'd show you what some of my friends do with their spare time... Carita and Marcus make such lovely runic sticks, inspired by similar medieval finds. These pictures below I took this summer as they stopped by for a chat and some light handicraft. 

 I just love this type of secret runes! The best ever!
When we got married C and M were kind enough to make a runic stick for us as well. I just took some pictures of it to show here on the blog but I can't seem to find the cable, and thus I'm unable to get the pictures out of the camera... But it's very pretty, and usually hangs in our bedroom window as a reminder of our wedding day.

Each of the four sides carries an inscription; one with my name, of with my beloved husband's name, one with a quote from a real medieval inscription, and one with a secret inscription.

The quote is from a runic stick from Bryggen, Bergen. It reads: 

Unn þú mér
ann ek þér
kyss mik

This roughly translates to "If you love me, then I love you. Kiss me." (The original also contains the name Gunnhildr, and ends with a "kann ek þik" - "I know you well.") The last side of our stick, inscribed with a row of little heads (like the one in the picture above!), turned out to be a signature telling the reader carved the runes. I love it, so once more - thank you Carita and Marcus!